One afternoon, after a particularly bad day at Presidio Junior High in San Francisco back in 1969, I sat on a bench. I was benched yet again, but I didn’t mind because, especially that day, I hated PE and I hated pretty much every girl in that seventh-grade class. They teased me when I wouldn’t hit a volleyball coming my way. One time I actually moved out of the way to avoid getting hit with said ball. They didn’t know I was blind in one eye, and I wasn’t going to tell them or give them the satisfaction of knowing.
As I sat on the bench, I laughed when the seagulls all flew off the roof of the school building at once and everyone ran for cover so they wouldn’t be “bombed.” I was pretty safe under an awning. Then I noticed a ragged paperback book that someone had left behind sitting not far from me on the bench. I reached over and grabbed it. The book looked well-worn with a red cover and a picture of a boy who couldn’t have been much older than me. The name of the book was The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. I opened the book and began to read. I became so involved in the book that I didn’t notice the PE class had ended and shadows began to form in the massive schoolyard closing the yard in even more and making it look more like a prison yard than a school yard.
I kept reading until I finished that book and it was almost dark. I knew my mom would freak out about where I was, but I didn’t care. I had to finish the book.
I would end up rereading The Outsiders a few times along with other books written by S.E. Hinton such as That Was Then, This is Now and Tex. No one knew who the mysterious S.E. Hinton was for years, at least I didn’t — whether the author was male or female. But this author WAS Ponyboy, the main character from The Outsiders. He or she was Tex. I finally found out S.E. Hinton was a female high school teacher who wrote The Outsiders when she was only 17. I was in awe of this teacher, and a bit surprised. She even showed up as a cameo in the movie Tex — a teacher of some kind.
One thing that always resonated with me from The Outsiders was when Johnny says, “Nothing gold can stay.” It’s a quote from one of Jack Frost’s poems which I had not yet read by the age of 12. The quote has stayed with me for the rest of my life.
I thought of the quote just the other day when I walked on the trail. I noticed a dandelion, and then two more, growing amid the grass and old fallen leaves — fighting to survive though it isn’t quite spring yet. I remembered how last spring and summer, the trail was like walking through a colorful rainbow with all kinds of wild flowers blooming — the dandelions and then the daisies, the yellow flowers that took over, creeping buttercup — then the purple camus flowers, and even the blackberry bushes bloomed white flowers before the berries came. Then little by little, all the flowers died off. Some hung on for dear life, but then they were all gone, leaving nothing but green ferns, grass and trees behind. Then the leaves shed from the deciduous trees and looked barren except for the licorice ferns which grow from the tree trunks. Made me think that nothing gold can stay. Everything has a life cycle and dies off.
But the good news is, those flowers will return. I just know it. They’ll return with all their splendour along with lush green plants, and the leaves will grow back on the trees again.
So even though those flowers and the leaves were not meant to last forever, and nothing gold CAN stay. They can leave and return once again. It’s the circle of life.