This afternoon Bella and I were sitting outside. I was chatting on the phone with my mom and Bella announced that she was bored. She didn’t want to watch anymore football. I suggested a few ideas and she decided she wanted to do some art.
Immediately she had a plan: “I want you to cut out some flowers and then I can glue them on a paper and paint them.” It was a very specific plan, especially considering we’ve never done that exact project before. It took me a minute to understand what she wanted. I ended my phone conversation and went inside to help with the project.
Bella found some orange and black construction paper and asked me to cut out some flowers from it. She and Sophie glued the flowers onto some brown and green papers. The result was really quite striking. Bella decided against the paint and instead colored each flower carefully with red and blue crayons.
When she was halfway through she suddenly declared: “I want to take the flowers to our neighbor.” Recently she made a solo expedition across the street (with Dom’s approval and supervision) to say hello to our elderly neighbor. I guess this was the natural next step in her bold move to be neighborly. We have decided she’s now allowed to cross the street by herself with supervision and I think she’s finding excuses to exercise her new freedom.
When the she had finished her paper Bella sprang up and made for the front door, “I’m going to take this to our neighbor.” I went along to supervise the crossing of the street. Bella didn’t need any help, though. She went directly across to the house, up to the door, and only hesitated when it came to what to do next. I pointed at the doorbell and told her to push it. Sophie by this time had dashed out and joined us. I held her hand across the street.
Our neighbor came to the door with a bit or a surprised look and the girls handed over their bright creations. I explained that it was their own idea and she was very, very touched. She asked the girls their names and thanked them warmly and they ran back across the street, Bella holding Sophie’s hand. I lingered at my post on the sidewalk to chat a bit longer. She asked Ben’s name, he was lurking in our yard watching the proceedings from a safe distance. She commented on that he was “all boy” and I agreed.
I told her that the pictures were the girls’ own idea. Then our neighbor, who has never been excessively friendly, though we’ve talked a few times, continued to express her appreciation. She said the pictures gave her goosebumps. As you know, she said, we’ve had some hard times recently (Yes, we’ve noticed all the visits from the local fire department and ambulance rides for both him and her.) And then she said that she’d just come home today. She’s got a blood clot in her leg. She was almost in tears as she looked down at the pictures in her hands and tried to find words for how much they meant.
Oh I have never been such a proud mother as I was then. I said goodbye, I should have said more. I should have said we’d be praying for her. But I am so shy I can never find the right words. I was afraid, I guess.
I went back into our house and told Dom how it all went down. We agreed that St Therese had been working powerfully in our little Bella.
The girls went back to work and finished a second picture each. We went back out to deliver them. We tried to knock next door but the little lady who lives there didn’t answer. So we went to the next house on the other side of her. The old man who lives there answered the door and the girls clammed up, a little startled to find a masculine presence. I explained their presents and he was delighted. He said they would get a place on the fridge. He wondered why he’d been selected and I just shrugged. Who knows why they do what they do? His wife joined him in the door and she oohed too. They said thanks again and I prompted the girls to say “you’re welcome” as they dashed back down the sidewalk toward home, bare feet flashing under bright flowered dresses.
“You girls have done a good deed,” I told them. “St Therese would be very pleased.”
I wish I’d snapped some photos of their projects, but they went so fast. Still, I don’t think I’ll soon forget our neighbors’ faces, and that is an even more precious picture.