We ran out of cookies today. I know, terrible.
But just as the kids were finishing up lunch and starting to ask for their allotted two cookies each, I spotted our neighbor coming up my front steps with a tray full of pastries. "Hi Suzanne," she said in her cheerful way, "Jerry said we couldn't eat all these so I thought I'd bring them by for the boys." Her timing couldn't have been better.
We invited her in, our fun and easy going neighbor who moved here from Connecticut at about the same time we did. She talked with the boys about school and their extra curricular activities and listened to their piano playing. They loved having an audience and she "oohed" and "ahhed" at their renditions of Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" and the "Indiana Jones" theme song.
Then we all sat down and shared the plate of apple turnovers. They were delicious. When the boys ran off, my neighbor and I talked in the kitchen as I put together a crock pot dinner. We talked about the new house across the street, home owner's insurance, the proper way to prune a rose bush, and the best methods for removing mold off a deck (We never had such mold problems in Connecticut, we agreed). We had a great time.
Only after she'd left did I get a look at my floors and realize what a mess they were. The kitchen and dining room were badly in need of sweeping. How embarrassing. I was sure my neighbor's floors never looked like this. I'd seen her floors and I knew she never had children of her own. She must have noticed this mess, I thought, as I swept up dustpan after dustpan of food crumbs, art scraps, and school residue. So embarrassing.
Then I remembered how, years ago, I had admired a homeschooling mother of many who lived down the road from the house we were renting with our two young sons. I had asked her if I could stop in some time to see how she "does it all." Her response surprised me. She'd said, "If you're coming to see me, come see me--but if you're coming to see my house, make an appointment." Now, many years later, I sympathize with that mother and understand how she must have felt with a young, overly idealistic, perfectionist wanna-be asking to spy in on her "perfect" household. At the time, however, I really couldn't understand her response and took it as a firm, "NO." I really had just wanted to "see her," though, and get a closer look at the kind of life I already admired and felt called to live myself. Would messy floors have turned me off to it? I don't know. I never saw her floors.
Somehow I doubt very much that our neighbor dropped in today in order to get a look at some really clean floors. Finally, she comes to visit us every once in a while knowing full well what a lively household we have. In fact, I think she comes for that very liveliness, and everyone knows that liveliness has its messes. Life is messy. There is no shame in that. I decided not to let myself feel ashamed. I refused to give in to the feeling and smiled to myself instead. I was smiling about her perfect timing and the blessing of good neighbors.