Sometimes things we miss in the hurry of our everyday, God will put plainly in sight when we least expect it…
I pulled up to the stop light and before I could check my phone for a text, or look in the mirror to see my reflection, or tune the radio to listen to whatever, there it was beside me…
The young girl on the bicycle, not more than 12 or 13, rode up right behind the two walking ladies. At first I thought she must be with them as she was riding so close. The walking ladies were good friends, it was easy to tell. They were talking away as good friends do, so full of words and so full of friendship that they didn’t know they were walking or where they were. They only knew they were finding God’s gift for their day – the pure joy of having another to share all those words with.
I thought to myself “Why doesn’t the girl just say excuse me or clear her throat or something? Or maybe she is with them and has to ride behind them?” Not more than hundred feet of this happened when a wide driveway into a shopping center became her chance to go around. And she did, she went right around them and zoomed down the street. The walking ladies barely noticed, the words just kept tumbling out.
I thought again of the bicycle girl. I thought her mother should be proud of her. She was so patient, so kind. Then it occurred to me, would I have been? Haven’t I honked the horn when the light is green and the lady in front of me is fixing her hair or tuning her radio? And yes, I have had the horn honked at me when I’m lost in a text while waiting for the green light. How did it feel? It felt unkind.
In the matter of less than sixty seconds God showed me what kindness looks like. It looks like a 12 year old with a long, brown braid on a yellow bicycle gently pedaling and not making a sound and smiling as she goes around two women enjoying their gift for the day…
The silver haired reflection in the mirror seemed unfamiliar – where were the strawberry blonde curls, the freckled cheeks? The first Valentine’s Day in fifty-two years without Ed. The first Valentine Ed ever gave me was actually sixty years ago. Cut out of red construction paper and pasted on white notebook paper. I was eight and Ed had made one for all the girls, but when he handed them out I was last. He laid it on my desk and started to walk away, then stopped and looked at me and said “Your hair sure is curly.” That was all he had to say, from that day on I knew I was in love.
It took about another eight years before Ed ever said another thing to me on Valentine’s Day, but this time it was me who delivered a card. It was from the dime store and in it I wrote “Remember me? I was the eight year old with freckles and curly hair. Eleanor” At lunch I got up all my nerve and laid it on his lunch tray as I walked by.
That evening as I washed dinner dishes there was a knock on the door. I could hear daddy say “Come on in, son, how can I help you?” I froze as I heard Ed’s voice stammer “Well, sir, I want to ask permission to give this box of chocolates to your daughter, and, well, and sir, I was hoping I might could take Eleanor to the soda shop tomorrow night?” There was a long silence, I couldn’t breathe. Suddenly my younger brother said “Who would want to take Eleanor to the soda shop?” Daddy intervened “Buddy, go on in to the kitchen and help mama.” Then he said “Well, son, let’s see if Eleanor wants to go to the soda shop with you. Eleanor? Come on out here.”
Oh my goodness, my hands were still in the soapy water, I had an apron on, my hair was probably a tousled mess. But I didn’t waste any time, throwing the dish rag down I practically ran into the living room. Every Valentine’s Day since, Ed has always written on the card envelope “Freckles & Curls, That’s My Girl”. This year he would not.
Retrieving the shoebox where I had put each Valentine card, I took off the lid. The faint scent of Ed’s aftershave lifted out as I stared down at all the years. I decided I would start with the first one scrawled by an eight year old boy and work my way up to last year’s. I dumped the box upside down. To my surprise the first card on the bottom wasn’t that faded construction paper heart, it was a red envelope that read “I’m Sorry Freckles”. Inside was a construction paper heart and written on it was “I knew our first Valentine’s Day apart would find you reminiscing. Just want you to know that those eight years between the first Valentine card and our first date, I was in love too. Someday together again, this time you’ll be stuck with me forever. Bring chocolates! Love Ed”
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