Monday, April 12, 2010
Yesterday, as I was doing a little spring clean-up outdoors, a neighbour out walking her dog stopped for a chat. This woman has been a neighbour for over twenty years. Her two children are the exact same ages as two of mine. She is fond of telling me how “they have never given her a moment’s trouble in their lives”. As her words float smugly, she somehow always manages to make me feel like an unenlightened peasant with damaged offspring. Seven years ago when she discovered that our teenage son and his girlfriend were expecting a baby, her first words to me were, “I‘m so sorry. You must be feeling like such a failure as a parent. I‘ll pray for you.“ My immediate, absurd thought was, “No ... please don’t ... “
Today she tells me that she is looking forward to having grandchildren one day, but only when the time is right. She then adds, "I've always felt it isn't fair to bring children into this world until you're ready for them, but then no one knows that more than you and Gem. I really admire you."
When I go back into the house, my heart and brain wrestle as they always do after a conversation with her. My feelings are a complex mixture of envy, pity and sadness.
We so often tear one another apart, we noble humans. We are such a fearful species, so fond of lording it over one another in countless absurd ways.
Later in the afternoon, I spend some time at my favourite book store, which is actually a coffee shop and book store combined. It is called ’Books & Company’ and has a wonderful ambiance; inviting chairs, a fat purry cat prowling among the shelves, the best coffee in town.
My husband and I are regular customers and the lovely woman who works in the café section and also does a lot of the baking, knows us quite well.
"You’re missing your husband, dear. Of course you are. Would you like a piece of my pecan caramel shortbread with your coffee? Of course you would" , she says to me.
Immediately, I feel my clenched soul start to relax.
I think it's not really the grand gestures which sustain and nourish our lives. It's the seemingly ordinary, sometimes quirky, little, tender acts. These build upon each other and create a pattern of loving and nurture.
What a startling and beautiful thing it is to grow flowers in one's squalid corners.
(The sign in the parking lot behind Books & Company.)