He held my hand as we crossed Sherman Ave. together. When we reached the other side, he plucked a buckeye from his pocket and tucked it into my tiny palm. I was 5, and he was of grandpa age, but not my grandpa. He was Mr. Swan, and his memory lives on. It wasnt a peanut butter confection but a real buckeye.
Have you ever tried to describe the buckeye candy to someone who is not from Ohio? Most people think that a buckeye is only a football fan. If they havent even seen a real buckeye before, I say something like, A buckeye is like a nut that comes from the buckeye tree. Its mostly dark brown, but theres a light brown part, so it looks like the eye of a deer, and its poisonous. Here, try one of these buckeyes. Its made of peanut butter and sugar, and dipped in chocolate, and its not poisonous, although it isnt particularly good for you. But everybody loves them. When you find a real buckeye that has fallen from a tree, its like finding a rare treasure. Ive seen necklaces made out of real buckeyes and other novelties to celebrate Ohio.
Even when I was a little girl, it was fun to collect them. On my walk to my elementary school, there was one intersection where a man was hired to stop traffic, so the kids could cross. I dont know if he was a special duty policeman or what, but his name was Mr. Swan. Every once in a while in the fall, he would take my hand and slip a buckeye into it and fold my fingers around it, as if to hide it. His eyes would twinkle, and his face would crinkle in a smile as he gave me that little gift. But the gift I valued most was his smile and the care he took in making sure I got across the street safely, day after day. He was probably younger than I am now, but I regarded him as a very old man, a very nice old man, like a grandpa. Im sure he regarded each of us as one of his grandchildren as he took us by the hand and walked us all the way across that big wide street. I dont have a picture of Mr. Swan, but the image of that dear man taking my hand in his and asking me how school was that day is etched in gold on my memory. Whenever I pick up a real buckeye off the ground, I think of Mr. Swan.