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The Space Between Us: We are passengers in this journey through life

March 21, 2017 GMT

My full-time “day job” the past few weeks has been devoted to reorganizing, reorganizing, reorganizing. To meld two full households into one — Rochester into the Joliet home — has been a thorny task. To recast a well-known dignitary’s observation, “No one knew how complicated this would be.”

I get the “evil eye” whenever I lay off the task, Sheryl knowing that eventually I will escape from the drudgery of honey-do chores into a real full-time job with a real paycheck. Yet, the benefits of an at-home job working in old jeans and served a home-prepared lunch every day will be difficult to resign.

Problematic in culling through memory-laden boxes is discovering treasured mementos and then trying to find places to park them. There isn’t a cabinet, drawer, bookshelf or wall anywhere in our little brick bungalow that hasn’t had space made for somesuch “objets d’art” we cherish.

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One such item is a jar filled with rolled-up, brightly colored slips of paper and capped with a cross-stitched needlepoint lid sporting the initial “C”.

Inspiration at last

When Sheryl and I left Joliet for Rochester about 10 years ago, a sweetheart of a friend gave Sheryl and me an extremely thoughtful going-away gift, a Ball mason jar loaded with quotes of inspiration. In the bustle of Joliet departure, the jar was left behind, contents unrevealed.

A few days ahead of a Saturday supper party Sheryl and I hosted in our home, I unearthed the jar and fetched it from the basement. What to do, what to do? A gift too esteemed to give away and certainly not to discard. For the nonce, I placed it on the dining room sideboard, where it remained, overlooked even as guests arrived for supper.

Brainstorm! Espying the jar during desert, I brought it to the table and invited guests in turn to select a tiny scroll. After all guests had taken a spool, they read, cogitated, and then shared aloud what, if anything, did the inspirational quote personally signify.

Not a single guest held back; such is the breed of high-spirited friends we have. One after another waxed introspective over their randomly selected bits of paper while enjoying Sheryl’s homemade chocolate meringue pie and coffee.

‘Pleasant travelers’

Around the table, last turn came to Lonny Cain, former managing editor of the Small Newspaper Group-owned Ottawa (Ill.) Times. He read his chosen scroll, a quote taken from the writing of poet Diane Ackerman, “I don’t want to be a passenger in my own life.”

By then, table-talk had become sugar-charged, thanks to Sheryl’s delectable pie and caffeine. No one held back. Ackerman’s quote touched everyone. And then, to pricked ears and dropped jaws, one guest burst tentatively into recitation of a near-forgotten poem.

So impressed was I, as someone who cannot recite a poem from memory — even a silly, simple sing-song limerick. And yes, I do mean that kind of limerick.

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Yet, if ever I could recollect but one poem, it should be this one, attributed to Anonymous, a fact discovered through tableside search on my iPhone. (Yeah, yeah. l know what you’re thinking: How rude, a host checking Google at the dining table.)

Perhaps sundry readers will know this short poem. Please let me know if you do.

Life is like a journey, taken on a train

With a pair of travelers at each windowpane.

I may sit beside you all the journey through,

Or I may sit elsewhere, never knowing you.

But if fate should make me sit by your side,

Let’s be pleasant travelers; it’s so short a ride.

Some will call this verse sentimental, saccharine, syrupy, soppy. So be the opinion of some. I enjoy its sentiment.

For me, so long aboard my life’s train ride, I ponder fellow travelers who have ridden the rails with me, those known and unknown. We have crossed through joy and sorrow, fantasy and failure, hello and farewell.

I thank you for being a fellow passenger as we travel the space between us.