I saw him walking across the parking lot of the local coffee shop and restaurant I have procured as my new “second home”. He was rail-thin and wearing a gray suit, white shirt, and colorful, floral tie tucked in to the top of his pants. His outfit was topped off by a gray fedora. He could have walked right out of the 1940’s if it weren’t for the white plastic shopping bags he carried in both hands. His outfit raised my eyebrows, as it didn’t quite fit in the laid-back, casual atmosphere of the beach community in which I now live. What made me really smile, though, was the bouquet of flowers which peeked out of one of the bags. I smiled at this older man, dressed to the nines, and at the thought of who he might be surprising with his unexpected gift of affection. I loved the thought of the way her eyes would light up at the sight of the flowers. Of how he would look 20 years younger in the uniform of a previous generation. She would smile, put her hand to his face, which would wear a slight smile, and then give him a slight kiss on his cheek; which he would bend slightly to receive…
Don’t you just love, love?
I moved into a house recently. It was somewhat dirty, as the woman living there previously had resided there for over 10 years, and loved cats. I have worked hard to clean it and paint it; along with the gracious help of my brother and sister. I thoroughly cleaned the kitchen cabinets. I got as deep in their bowels as my arms could reach. When I did, I found scrunched behind one of the drawers, a letter from the Prudential Life Insurance Company. The letter was yellowed, and I almost threw it into the 50-gallon trash bag in the center of the room. However, a question suddenly tugged at my mind…. “What year is the post-mark?” Upon Re-examination, I found it to have been sent and received in 1952. The letter was from some accountant, or some sort, doing PR with a client whose whole life check had not been received yet. What I loved, however, was the back of the envelope. Scribbled hurriedly in pencil was a note:
I have gone to the store to get a box of crackers. Be right back.”
I LOVE this snippet of everyday life from 9 years before I was born. Something about that note drove itself deeply into my soul. It felt as if the soul of the house had revealed itself to me. I began to ask questions about the myriads of people who had lived in the house before me.
What were their joys?
What were their tragedies?
Were there retirees down for the winter?
Were there young couples beginning their lives together?
Has there ever been another single man given the opportunity for a re-start of life?
Have there been parties in the backyard?
Was there anger and yelling within these walls?
Was there delicious love-making in the bedrooms?
How many cups of early morning coffee have been savored on the back patio?
Who was the handy-man/amateur woodworker that used the shop?
How many cakes were baked in this kitchen?
I have named the design style I am using in the current makeover: “Post-Modern Retro.” I know…. a bit dissonant, high-sounding name for a little paint, a few light fixtures, and furniture (which isn’t much at this point). However, the letter got to me. I want to pay a certain level of homage to the history of the people who have lived in this house, in this neighborhood.
At one end of the street is a really small park… no… I mean, REALLY SMALL… complete with two benches which are within feet of the seawall, holding back the inter-coastal waters. Across the water, are a bevy of tall condos. At night, it is absolutely beautiful. In fact, my first night to sleep in the house, I walked down to the park and sat on the bench to take in the beauty of the place. There was a full moon that night, with a cool breeze blowing. The light of the moon danced across the waves blown by the breeze. The lights of the condos teased with questions about the people living within the luminescence. I was sure they had a wonderful view, yet I would not have traded with them for the one I had at that moment. Sure, I would have loved for someone to be there to share the moment with me, but I am content with the fact that God was there… and God was smiling. In fact, I KNOW God was there, because at the other end of the street where I live, sits a large Catholic Church. It is so close, I could shout out my confession to the busy priest, as long as the traffic isn’t too busy. One day I will go to mass there. Every weekend, our little street becomes excess parking. ESPECIALLY on Easter! I love that….
Frequently, God reminds me how beautiful life is. It can be so easy to get caught in the urgency of everyday, and the immediacy of our need to control, and manage life…
…that we miss out on the beauty of our weakness. How God creates innumerable quiet refuges for us to enjoy. Rest for our souls, just within view. The Church of God at one end of the block, the Creation of God at the other end of the block, and life lived in connection with both. I think that may be the Kingdom of God, which Jesus said was near….
I will receive it with gladness.