Dipping the Toe

Thoughts on life and faith and faith in life

The Man Across the Street

This moment? This right here, right now? It grabs my eyeballs and makes me stop reading my book and look up. The girl is sitting beside me on the brown exactly-the-right-amount-of-squish couch in our half painted “wooden room”; half painted because I started it a year and a half ago on my christmas break and got knocked down by the flu and somehow ….. well, somehow a year and a half later happened. Still, if you look at the room a certain angle and don’t look up near the ceiling, it’s a perfect rustic oatmeal white just like I wanted it. Halfway done reminds me not to take every last thing too seriously. If it gets done this summer it will be glorious and I will feel very grown up in my oatmeal white room. If it doesn’t, because maybe I took too many walks and had too many talks? Then halfway done will be an altar to what matters most to me. For right now, the window across the room glows early evening sunset, the breeze is the perfect ever so slight humid spring rain- in- the- air and I accept the gift.

Today was a page in the mental diary I keep of small things deserving big thanks. The girl picked me up from my first day back at work from spring break. My feet hurt from getting over the shock of using them again all day but my heart felt light and smiley. I love that I don’t hate being back at work. My job is a place I know I belong and I like that knowing. We headed off to the courthouse to pick up a packet of information I will need for the next several weeks on how to juror. I do not want to know how to do this but somehow I was not able to get out of it so……I take my packet and find myself thankful I am not myself in need of a jury. If I have to be involved, I’ll take this side of the law.

We get to our front door hungry and begin our coming home routine like a Fred Astaire dance number. We each know our plan, our part, without even having to discuss it and we deftly change clothes, start the washer, grab ingredients and knives and cutting boards, dipping and dodging around one another. Within minutes we are sitting at the speckled kitchen table eating our homemade pizza of roasted asparagus, huge curls of fresh parmesean and roma tomatoes all melty and crunchy at the same time. “Mmmmm!” we say quietly and look out the window as we eat content.

We read out loud together most every evening. I did that with all my kids as they grew up and it still wraps up the day in comfort; the lull of our voices as we find a thing to talk about and roll over in our minds. We explore the world and it’s ideas and what we think of it. We finish it off with our current bible study and snap the book shut. “That was good lesson, Mama,” says the girl and I look at her and smile. The dryer buzzes it is finished with our days’ clothes and I get up to go sort them out, grateful that it is just a room away and not a walk to a river somewhere.

I brew a cup of half-caff to cradle as I reach for my current all-by-myself read The Yellow Envelope by Kim Dinan and the girl goes to her college book. The coffee and cream ratio in my mug is perfect. I try and drink as I read but my reading glasses fog up with each sip and the words become ghostly versions of themselves. I shift the mug to the side of my mouth and try again and then spit laughing at my awkward little self who just wants her coffee and her book. The girl looks up from her studies. “Oh Mama….”, she shakes her head at me with the bemusement that comes from having gotten used to a quirky parent. We don’t have to explain ourselves. We just are and that’s ok.

I’ve been a sad little worried about my across the street neighbor. He’s lived there several years and you can set your calendar to spring weather because on the very first day of tolerable warm he will be in his lawn chair on his little side porch watching over the world on Main Street from dawn to dusk. This year, though, the warm days came several days in a row and the chair across the street remained empty. Come to think of it, when was the last time I’d seen him; last fall?? My friend around the corner and I swapped concern and I kept vigil for movement. Finally, today he emerged. “Where were you??” I scolded with a smile. “We were worried! Don’t do that again! We need you on your porch!” He laughed. I don’t think he realizes that we had counted on seeing him season in, season out. Come to think of it, I don’t think we realized it either…..until he wasn’t there. The Mayor of Main Street. That’s what we named him.

My phone rings. It’s my friend, Sarah. She rarely “needs” or “wants” anything specific. She usually doesn’t talk long. She just wants to remind me that she is there and I am here and we are friends. She checks on her people. I like that about her. She is an example of making the effort to “see” and I am so fortunate to be seen by her. I hang up warmed by the embers she lights and passes on to others. Sarah is a grounding point that helps me keep my hearts’ home in focus.

The chill of the evening is settling in and the sky has a deep blue layer forming, laying softly The birds outside over my shoulder talk lyrically back and forth across the yard. I get up to push the window down, just enough to let in the nighttime sounds, keep in the warm. I find the sentence in the book that started all this wandering chatter and re-read it :

“Then I whispered the most important prayer of all, that blessing of the blessed: “thank you”.

I go to look out at the Mayor across the street. He’s still there. The phone dings a message from my boy in Montana. It looks like the plans to go see him this summer are set. The girl turns off her computer, ready to watch a favorite program. I will pour a bowl of cashew and cacao granola and almond milk and pull on a hoodie for sleep.

And I will whisper the most important prayer of the blessed: “thank you.”

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  1. Cindy Wiggins

    May 5, 2019 at 10:23 am

    Thank you for sharing your story with us on Saturday at our ladies’ meeting. You mentioned Rachel Evans’ book Searching for Sunday. I went home and purchased it as a Kindle book. Then on Facebook I read of her death at age 37. I was overwhelmed, but as I sit here and read her book, she continues to live on. Thanks again for sharing! You don’t realize the impact of your words.

    • Tamara Belanger

      May 5, 2019 at 6:28 pm

      Thank you so much for, Cindy, for the kind words! It was my joy and honor! Yes, Rachel’s death was a shock to me…i had no idea she was sick! I’m thinking of her family a lot.

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