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Things Could Have Been Different But They Weren't

May 17, 2004

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. Not bad at all. It was a party, really. Seemed as if everyone but the President was there to celebrate thirty years of the show and celebrate they did. If it wasn't a song about sweet corn or setting the woods on fire, then it was a story about a hot air balloon ride or Dusty and Lefty talking about romance and how it doesn't bear much thinking about, or Mr. Keillor talking about how things could have been different but they weren’t.

I suppose you could look at all of life that way. Seems every move we make might very well change things in a big way. I remember a story I wrote in the ninth grade for Ms. Trudeau. That wasn't her real name; she was also the French teacher in our small school and we had French names in French class and she became “Ms. Trudeau” the year she came to town. No one knew her real name, but we did know she was partial to cardigan sweaters and Humphrey Bogart movies and crepes with Brie. My French name was "Colette" and that’s what her kids called me when I cleaned her house on Saturday mornings. Anyway, Ms. Trudeau taught composition, too, and we had to write a fantasy story for a final test. My story began with a woman sitting on a bench in a park, a bag of groceries at her side. The day was windy and a sudden gust blew the top-heavy bag over and out rolled a head of cabbage onto the sidewalk where a man on a bike veered to miss it and ended up causing a city bus to brake and somehow hit a power line and from there on things snowballed until the world came to an end. All because of a gust of wind and a head of cabbage.

I saw Ms. Trudeau last week on TV. A local station was interviewing her about a trip to Paris she was planning for her students. She still looks like Natalie Wood, only softer, and she waved a small French flag at the camera as she talked. Still no wedding ring, but a smile as big as all getout.

Anything can happen in a moment, and when you think about all the moments in a life, and all that potential for chaos, we really are doing pretty well. What’s the point of regret? And what’s the purpose of worry? It seems you ought to do what feels right in your gut and thirty years from now, if you’re still alive, and waving a flag or singing, you ought to keep on going and not think too hard about what might have been or what will be and just enjoy that slice of pie and how the wind is messing up your hair.

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