Tuesday August 31st 2010, 11:32 pm
Filed under: Life

There was one other thing about Saturday night at that clubhouse: one person actually DID see me.

A young mom with two very small children, one of them barely old enough to walk. They were doing the charming wobbly meandering exploring of the great outside world that people of that size love to do, and she was keeping a bored but careful eye on them while letting them roam a bit.  The little boys stayed together, pretty much. I’m sure she was making sure they didn’t get too near that pool back there.

Which meant she was standing in the walkway between the gate I was stuck behind and across from that open door I was so fervently wanting to reach.  She was in.  I was out.  She saw me, then carefully turned and did the I’m-not-seeing-you pretense, glancing my way occasionally without quite making eye contact again.

If that gate was locked in my face it was obviously because I didn’t belong there.  Well then.

Now picture it, a potluck party going on in that clubhouse, and me, dressed in a skirt and silk blouse and what I think is one of the most elegant shawls I’ve knit, a chocolate torte held up in one hand and my artsy hand-carved sassafras wood cane in the other hand, justifying my wavering balance.  The Birkenstocks.

Quite the scary stranger stereotype.

I called out Evet’s name as Evet walked past that doorway. Waved that torte. The cane.

I wonder if, feeling guilty later, the young woman perhaps ventured to check whose name the clubhouse was reserved in for the evening.

All I needed her to have done was to step five steps sideways to poke a head in the door and ask, Is there an Evet here? Someone’s trying to get your attention.

To be fair, yes, small children change direction and speed fast and unexpectedly; she would have had to shepherd them in the same direction to keep them in her direct line of sight.

It was easier to just keep to her own business and pretend she didn’t know I was there.  And I, openly dissed, could not make myself ask her to do for me what she did not want to do for me. Because if she refused even that–I’m a mom too. I would not want one of my children to feel so much worse the way that making that choice would cause her to feel later.

I have often thought how true the words are of one of Rachel Remen’s cancer patients, who told Dr. Remen, I have found there are two kinds of people: those who love. And those who fear.

When we close down and deny the humanity in those we don’t know, we deny our own.

I’m looking at this from the standpoint of middle age, remembering the boredom and the hassles and the interrupted-sleep nights of when my children were little.  Of some of the things I might have done differently had I had enough rest and some time to myself to just sit and think.  Which, come to think of it, is why I took up handicrafts–sewing, then smocking, then went back to my love of knitting–when my children were small. It stayed done. It gave me a sense of creative accomplishment.

And it gave me time to center myself and think.

I like to think I left that woman with a life lesson she won’t forget.  I like to think she’ll choose differently next time, never again wanting to feel the sting of that regret.  Opening the gate for me, or asking the others first to make sure and then letting someone else there take the responsibility of doing so–it would have been so easy. I would have been so very grateful.  Hey, she’d have been invited in with her little boys for celebratory chocolate torte with the rest of us, first piece!

There are many ways to learn not to choose fear.

There’s still some leftover torte.

11 Comments so far
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Or maybe she’s entirely self-centered and just couldn’t be bothered.

Sometimes the tiniest bit of assistance can be hugely helpful and yet some selfish people won’t go an inch out of their way. I vote a third kind of people: those who just don’t care about others. She may fall into that category. (Sorry–perhaps too cynical.)

Comment by LynnM 09.01.10 @ 12:41 am

The Old Testament, Epistle, and Gospel lessons Sunday all had a common theme: hospitality. Hospitality in a world where a refusal to aid a stranger could mean death for the stranger. (Well, in your case, death by chocolate.) You’re correct – in our world, fear certainly gets in the way of hospitality.

Comment by Barbara-Kay 09.01.10 @ 6:44 am

Lovely post. I refuse to let fear rule my life!

Comment by Channon 09.01.10 @ 7:16 am

Somehow, from your description of your appearance, I am thinking the only possible thing to be afraid of would be an elegant Granola Witch with a poisoned torte instead of an apple. None of that makes sense, and barring an honest expression of concern, I’m afraid I would have to think she was just not interested in being helpful. That said, at some point she will ask, “Why? Why me?” and God will show her. Those moments are always embarrassing, but instructive.

Comment by Patricia Day 09.01.10 @ 7:46 am

those who love and those who fear… what a great quote!

Comment by pip 09.01.10 @ 8:22 am

I understand what you are saying when you suggest that the woman was concerned for the safety of her children, for it is so quick and easy for a youngster to fall into a pool. On the other hand, she might have asked someone to help you. On the other hand, you might have asked her to have someone open the gate. On the other hand, …, oh, never mind.

Different topic — You’re middle-aged? It was either Groucho Marx or George Burns who said that middle age was anyone 10 years older than you. And he said that old age was when there was no one else around your age.

Comment by Don Meyer 09.01.10 @ 9:11 am

There’s a proverb in the making here…’there’s an extra piece of torte in every missed party’, perhaps? Sounds more appealing than a silver lining!

Comment by RobinH 09.01.10 @ 11:57 am

Fear is so powerful. It takes something like love to push it aside. Thanks for the reminder to keep nurturing the latter so it can do its work.

Comment by twinsetellen 09.01.10 @ 6:40 pm

Very thought provoking – those who love and those who fear. I think I fall into both catagories but I wish I leaned a little closer to the love side. Thanks for another wonderful life lesson. You are so good at those. And apparently very good with chocolate too!

Comment by Mary 09.01.10 @ 11:26 pm

seems of late that our politics has made way too many run to the side of those who fear — sad, because it is only when we love that we grow

hope you’re not rattling about in the house too much now that your daughter is off to school — more projects?

Comment by Bev 09.02.10 @ 8:23 am

You’re much more charitable towards that woman than I would have felt, but that’s my own flaw showing. Even when you have little kids, you can still stand up and open a gate or even call for help. Even if you’ve been existing on 3 hours of sleep a night for weeks. I know. I have such a hard time understanding the ‘treating someone as though they are invisible’ attitude. Aren’t we all brothers and sisters? Would she have done that to someone she knew?

Comment by Beckett 09.02.10 @ 8:25 pm

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