The Little Man
by Linda Baie
The small wooden carving of a man with a green hat stood at my grandfather’s right hand as he wrote his business notes each day. I was allowed to pick him up and stare into his face only occasionally. My father was killed in World War II, so my mother and I lived with her parents from the time I was two. Grandfather, my Pop, became like a father. He told me stories every night, read to me and taught me names of trees and flowers. We watched the stars on summer evenings.
I wanted that little carved man. I coveted him as a young child, and could not understand why, if Pop really loved me, that he wouldn’t give me the carving.
As I grew up, I discovered that that little man was all that was left of my grandfather’s father’s things. I began to understand why he stayed at Pop’s desk. I began to see outside myself to perceive others’ relationships and others’ needs.
I also realized that Pop regarded the little man as a talisman from his past. Most of the family belongings had been left behind when they moved to Missouri to start a new life. I appreciated this sad circumstance, but I still wished to own him long into my adulthood.
When I remember how much I wished to own the carving, I suspect it was to keep a connection with my grandfather that I realized would end soon, one I did not want to end. I have him now, received after my grandfather died. He sits in a corner of a shelf in my living room; I dust him when needed, and blow a kiss to my grandfather who, among other wise words for living well, taught me patience is a virtue.
AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: The little man has been with me since 1973 when my grandfather died. As I wrote, the carving was something my grandfather brought with him as a young man when his family traveled from Virginia to farm a new piece of land in mid-Missouri. I imagine someone in Virginia carved him, but don’t know who, and I guess he is a street accordionist. He has a green hat and the faintest of a yellow jacket, and his name, Lem, at the bottom.
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Finding a way to hold onto my past means keeping some objects that belong to beloved people in my life. When this prompt asked for a piece about a “prized possession,”I knew that one of my most loved is a “little man” from a dear grandfather whom I believe was a great man. Owning something he loved keeps him near although he died nearly fifty years ago.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Linda Baie recently retired after 25 years teaching gifted students, finally as a literacy coach at an independent school in Denver, Colorado. She writes for her blog TeacherDance that includes poetry, essays, and book reviews.