Sunday in the Park
I find I am bombarded right now with messages about things I’m supposed to want to buy, either for myself, or for others. So many catalogs in the mail, I am embarrassed to leave the post office with a new stack, daily. On television, I am reminded, the measure of my worth will be affirmed if a loved one showers me with diamonds in a box or a bow on a Lexus in the driveway. If I buy into this line of thinking, I succumb to great anxiety, fairly certain I will not ever be worthy enough.
If however, I look at gifts that come unbidden and somewhat less tangible I find it has been a rich few weeks. It started the night I came home from work and found, in my driveway, a brand new garbage can! This may not thrill everyone, I understand, but for months my plastic receptacle had suffered one indignity after another. First the top came off, then a wheel. I would drag the topless one legged can to the street each week, determined to call and ask for a replacement. The garbage man would have his mechanical arm pick it up, empty it and crash it back to the street each week. So the night I came home and found the lidded, double wheeled can, I was ever so happy. I wondered which of my neighbors had tired of watching me drag the thing in and out each week and had engineered the new receptacle.
The following week I met the garbage man as he drove up and told him to be sure to take the old can away. I puffed up a bit and pointed to the obvious, "I have a new can." He nodded and shouted out over the roar of his truck, "I know, I brought you one last week. Just call if you need another. I’m happy to help you." I thanked him, sheepishly, and he drove off with a big wave and smile.
The garbage man, whose title is no doubt, a waste removal engineer, happily, without reminders, just did his job, pro-actively. I considered it the gift of the week. But there was more. On a Sunday, I was shopping in the store formerly known as Dan’s and though it was in the middle of prime football viewing time, I ran into a couple of folks I know, though not very well. I shopped and exchanged pleasantries and checked out and headed to my car. There on my windshield were, tucked under the wiper, a dozen roses such a pale pink they almost looked white. I looked around for the giver but there was no one in sight. For days I pondered which of the folks at the market might have gifted me and then I had a terrible thought, what if they had put them on the wrong car. What if the roses were never intended for me in the first place. Silly girl, I told myself, none of those people left you flowers.
Later in the week, I attended a large social function and a kind young man I know came up to me with his girlfriend and asked if he’d picked the right car. I had no idea what he was talking about until I remembered the flowers. I thanked him for the unexpected kindness and the flowers. By now I was on a roll.
When it first snowed a few weeks ago, I mean really snowed, I heard a bit of neighborhood commotion upon waking. Dueling snow blowers and shovels a blazin’. I live among men who love their tools. When I was ready to leave my house I was surprised to find not only my walkway cleared, but also my driveway and the remaining flat stones that had summered on my driveway waiting to become another garden path had been moved. No one has yet ‘fessed up to snow clearing but I have my suspicions. I will drop off bottles of something tasty at two houses this week, just as a kind of offering for my local snow gods.
And last Sunday, when the last of the turkey was boiling away on the stove in a concoction my family calls Turkey Mortar (as a young bride, when my mother-in-law told me to add a cup of rice to my broth and I decided to add not one cup but two, uncooked, I created a dish that was neither soup nor risotto and has forever more, in my family, been known as Turkey Mortar) I took that cooking time to refill the bird feeders. And put the salt lick back outside and throw some of those dried ears of corn intended for squirrels around the yard. I was gifted that very night. Around seven o’clock, a white-tailed deer showed up right on my front porch, pushing the birdseed out of the feeder and onto the ground to nibble. I watched at the window, grateful for the present of his presence, until he spied me and leapt away. In the morning, I saw where he had been joined by others, who had criss-crossed my yard and created a kind of beautiful stitchery pattern in the new snow.
By the time a dear old friend dropped by with a pan she found that creates a gingerbread house with little effort, I was in full gratitude mode. She knows I enjoy making silly bundt cakes with my grandchildren and she thought the seasonal selection a grand addition to Oma’s pans. I honestly clapped my hands when I unwrapped it. I felt that kind of glee.
My daughter, Jenny, showed up one morning this week and proclaimed, "Could this day be any more beautiful!" She has lived in the mountains all her life, first at Lake Tahoe and then here. Snow storms and their aftermath are nothing new. I had arrived at work when it was cold and overcast and had put my face into the computer for hours. I looked up and outside. The sky was bright and a severe clear blue and the snow sparkled as if covered in more crystals than Katie Holmes’ wedding dress. I immediately went outside where the air was so cold it burned my chest. And it felt good. I thanked Jenny for making me aware of the day.
In the next few weeks, the level of intensity about gifts will increase. The advertisements, the window displays, the constant mailings. It is so easy to think the only gifts that matter are those that are opened on a date certain. But I hope I can stay open to gifts
that are offered without wrappings, without ceremony, without timetables. Because kindness is a gift we can all afford to give this season on any day, even Sunday in the Park
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