Since I frequently mention Mother in humorous stories, I thought perhaps I should tell you more of her true nature. She lives in a quiet neighborhood on a corner lot, always busy working in her yard, which over the past thirty years, she has landscaped lovingly. For more years than I can remember, she has kept a cooler of ice water on her back porch, with cups, for any passerby, who needs a drink. She washes and reuses the cups, discouraging waste. Most days, she is on hand to greet the kids when they are getting in from school to ask about their day, encourage them, or just talk. Should she hear unkindness, she reminds them, “You can’t talk like that. How would you feel if someone called you that?” If a child tells her of being bullied, she says, “Tell your parents or teacher. If they don’t help, come back and let me know. We’ll figure something out.” She has become so well-known, that walkers of all ages in her neighborhood stop for a drink, carefully returning their used cups to the bin for rewashing. Many times I’ve seen kids tap on the back door or hunt her up in the yard to let her know she has fallen down on the job by letting the water cooler run dry. So many stop by that she can’t possibly know them all by name, although they certainly know hers.
Mother loves light, so when she isn’t working outdoors, she usually keeps her backdoor open, often privy to interesting exchanges between the kids. They feel perfectly free to talk in front of her, like she is part of the landscape. Recently, she passed on this conversation between a couple of boys who were taking a break on her back steps, about ten feet from where she sat.
Jason started out. “This place is old.”
“Yep.” Amos agreed.
“This house is old.” Jason offered.
“Yep.” Amos was the king of “Yep!”
“That truck is old.”
“Mrs. Swain is old. Old people are so full of wisdom and uh, uh, uh…..” Finally Jason was at a loss for words.
“Oldness!” Quipped Amos.
Over the years, many of her “children” have grown up and moved out of her neighborhood. It is very common for her to be in a restaurant, on a parking lot, or anywhere in town and have a young police officer, store clerk, nurse, or bag boy call out, “Heh, Mrs. Swain, remember me? I used to get water at your house?” What a positive way to see how many lives she has touched over the years.