Monday, April 12, 2010

April Unfurling

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.)


  1. Gotta love an imaginative sign!

  2. I admire your restraint with regards to your neighbour, but if it get's too much just let me know and I will fly over there and kick her fence down. It sounds as if it would be worth making the journey just to visit that bookshop.

  3. Your neighbour's behaviour speaks volumes doesn't it? A little insecure, or envious perhaps? Who knows quite what makes these people tick?

    The bookshop sounds wonderful, as does the pecan caramel shortbread.

    The last line sums it all up perfectly.

  4. I come to this post late, but it was still a joy to read. With neighbors like that poor woman, one doesn't need enemies. Your restraint with her is admirable and qualifies you for sainthood.
    I so enjoyed your philosophical musings about the small gestures that hurt others or nourish their lives. These are small daily choices that bless the very foundation of our lives.
    Every day, we are given encounters with others. We are given the choice of thoughtlessly leaving them in pain or leaving them smiling. You have chosen the smile. Hooray for you!