Written by: Liz Blackmore
I saw the look on my husbands face and knew I went too far! My breathing was still heavy, rasping mixed with a sob or two. I was shaking, my eyes wet and stinging. I think I cut my hand on the rock I just threw through the picture window of what was once my home. It was a place of tranquility, laughter, children clamoring over us in bed on a Sunday morning. Most recently, it was a place of fear, yelling matches, accusations, lies, lawyers and documents.
“Honey, it’s over. We have to go. This is going to come back to bite us, you know.” Derrick said, pointing to the window.
“Over!” I cried hard. I was so angry. I was angry at the world now, and had no reasoning behind anything I was saying. I was yelling and screaming at the house, Derrick, God, my former boss, the building I used to work in, the debt that crept into our lives, my stupidity! As the neighbors started to pop their heads out from behind closed doors, only one had the courage to approach us and ask to help.
It was Miss. Jane, the kindly spinster who was a silent companion to many a person on this block. I saw in her holding the sweater I made and gave her two years ago. The closer she came, the more sorrow I could see in her eyes. I had shared those sad eyes with her before as I helped her console an injured child, a recently widowed girlfriend, a friend who had just lost everything to a fire. I knew this time she was on a mission to help Derrick and me.
“Come Elisha! Let me wrap you with the comfort of something special. This was made with hard work and a sprinkling of love, you know, and I think you need some of it back.” She was gently wrapping my shoulders with the sweater as she spoke.
I was so exhausted that I offered no resistance. Derrick glanced back at the damage as we walked to Miss Jane’s home. The blind was half hanging in the window, tapping against the glass as a breeze gently whispered through the gaping hole. He heaved a deep sigh. This will not be easy to explain to the bank. Silently, he wished he had the nerve to do the same thing.
Miss Jane put the kettle on for some tea. I sat with Derrick watching her as she automatically pulled this and that from the cupboards and placed an array of cookies, tarts, fruit, and tea condiments on the hand hewn table. This is the first time I can remember actually looking at her kitchen. It was so old. Not in a derelict way, more like one that is reminiscent of a 1920’s farm kitchen. I half expected to see her stoke some wood in a cookstove.
Derrick was silent. I could read his thoughts, which is something 27 years of marriage can lend itself to. I wanted to cry, but this time because the pain he was going through. I realize that I was not always helping with an answer to an issue. Maybe if I had grown up, paid attention, none of what happened a few days ago would have occurred.
“I am sorry, Derrick.” I felt suddenly compelled to say. “We have a bit of a rocky road ahead of us, and I owe it to you not to add to the crap!”
Miss Jane continued to busy herself in the kitchen. I think she was tactfully allowing us a chance to calm down and asses my recent screw-up. She was a gem and I would miss not seeing her face in the afternoon as I walked the dog. Derrick grabbed one of the tarts off the antique plate, while I poured out three cups of tea. “Miss Jane, your tea is ready.”
I pulled the sweater around my shoulders a little tighter. I think I was in shock. Maybe I was just so numb that I didn’t want to feel anything. Why should I care? Why should I feel sorry for myself? Why should I try anymore? Why don’t I clue in, get a grip and own up to what I helped create.
This time I think it was Miss Jane who was mind reading. “Kids, you really need to get your plan in order,” she said as she slipped into her high-backed wooden chair. “I am sure that you may think you are the only ones in the world going through this, but if you check the headlines, another home loses its family daily. Now we need to think how you are going to learn from this and move forward.”
We must have looked like a couple of kids who got caught stealing, because Miss Jane winked at us and chuckled. ‘I know you that you can pull through this as a couple. I have been your neighbor for how many years now? I have watched you go from semi-newlyweds to where you are now. I think I have learned a thing or two about how you interact with each other and the world around you. You have come to the rescue of stray or injured animals, fixed a kids bike when the chain fell off, scared away a bully who pushed his way into the neighborhood and volunteered for how many things? Both of you have been amazing additions to this neighborhood, and even though we will not have the pleasure of your company every day, I for one, will welcome you to my home when you are in the area.”
I was unable to speak. While Miss Jane gave us an expedited rundown of our lives in Evergreen Bay, I was filling in the gaps with more personal touches. A tear of regret came to my eye. I thought of the times when I faked illness or previous engagements, so I could do something less demanding. Times when I would spend more than we could really afford so I could keep up with the Jones’. Times when I would not say no to the kids as they requested ownership to some passing fad.
Mostly, I regret not learning proper stewardship. I look around this kitchen, how comfortable and comforting it is. In all her simple honesty, Miss Jane shows values that we once had. I had not come from an affluent family, neither had Derrick. We really did work hard to get the things we felt we needed. I guess this is where we need to start. Right back to square one, what is important – now.
How is it possible that wise people are right where we need them, when we need them. With so few words they are able to turn the switch on in our heads, where so many before failed. I am so thankful, still angry, but so thankful for souls like Miss Jane.