I was having a really emotional day on Friday after work. I’ve been having some January blues and maybe because it was the last day of January, they came full force (not to mention the monthly emotional swing caused by my womahood). So there I was riding my bike home, my eyes filling with tears for no reason other than the heaviness in my heart. “Please get me out of myself, Lord.” I knew that I would have run to the wine store on my way home and popped open the bottle to numb the unwanted feelings masked in the lie that it was “just to relax.”
No longer with the quick fix of alcohol available to me, I prayed to encounter something to pull me out of myself. I pulled up to our stoop and there was the little old woman who lives next door to us stooped in her little door. I have wanted to speak to her since the first week of moving in, but felt too self-conscious to ever say anything. To be honest, I didn’t want her to feel like a charity case. She was standing there telling some homeless men to get off of her front bricks. I stood far enough away not to intrude, but close enough for them to know that I was there as well.
Once the men left, I moved in and introduced myself. “My name is Frances,” she replied. I asked how long she had lived in the little house and she said “60 years.” We talked for 20 minutes. I found out she was born in the backseat of a cab in Manhattan 1928. She and her husband came across this little hole in the wall that is now her residence when they bought property on the main street. It was first the stable for the horses of people’s carriages and then became a coffee shop for artists. She fell in love with all the possibilities of it when she saw it for the first time and exclaimed to her husband that they would move in.
She even cried at one point when telling me how she loves to go to Tokyo twice a year and how at first it was hard because her brother had been killed in the war by the Japs. She told me that if she could gain weight, she wouldn’t have so many wrinkles, but since she lost 20 pounds, she couldn’t gain it back.
Then, she showed me how she carved her name as she poured cement to make her stoop and pointed out how the letters were not the same size because she had done it free hand with a nail. I laughed as I thought about myself and how I do all these projects on the fly—not worrying much about perfection. I asked to take a picture of it and also secretly took a picture of her.
She brightened my day and I thanked God for answering my prayer. He heard me and answered in the flesh, in real time and helped me get out of myself.
I told Frances that I would be back for tea soon—to hear more stories, to spend time with her. You’re an angel, dear Frances.