No Time For Love

NO TIME FOR LOVE

by

Florence Witkop

A quick glance at the clock on the wall said I had time to grab a cup of coffee before heading to my desk. A quick cup, of course, and I’d take it to my desk instead of hanging around the break room because that clock said it was time to get started.

“Hi,” I said vaguely to the knot of people talking about something. As usual. I’d always wondered how they found the time to talk and still get their work done. But they did. I glanced at the clock again. No time to waste because I was a hard-working employee who didn’t spend much time in the break room. And I wanted my bosses to notice that fact about me.

Then I stopped stock still because everyone was staring at me and waiting for me to say something and I realized that while I’d been thinking about time and work someone had asked a question and I’d been so focused on the clock that I hadn’t heard.

I turned red. “What did you say? I’m sorry, I –“ and then I just kind of stopped as they started laughing because I’d done it again. Become so focused on work that everything else faded away. It was a familiar  joke in the office, one I actually didn’t mind even though I blushed every time it happened. Like now.

“We were wondering what you think of the new guy.”

“Do we have a new guy?”

More laughter. “Yes we do and you should see him, Shelley.” The speaker groaned. “He’s a triple threat. Gorgeous. Nice. And single.” She groaned again but with a grin because she was happily married. “And so are you. Single, that is. A fact I mention now just in case you are interested.” They stared at me, all those happily married people, expecting a reaction.

I made an indistinguishable sound and, since everyone else had their coffee by then, I grabbed a cup and poured some for myself, adding a carefully measured dollop of cream and a packet of artificial sweetener because too much sugar isn’t good for anyone. “I haven’t noticed him.” And then I turned to head for my desk.

And stopped because someone was in the way. A somewhat largish male with an easy smile and a suit that probably cost more than I made in a month and truly impressive shoulders, not to mention sandy hair and eyes somewhere between blue and green.

“Hello.” A baritone voice said this had to be the new guy because he had a gorgeous body and his voice was friendly and the lack of a ring on his hand said he was probably single and why had I noticed that fact? I didn’t normally.

Because my co-worker mentioned it, I decided, and not for any other reason because, though Dalrymple didn’t have an actual policy regarding employee relationships, it was well known that such relationships could make life at work complicated so I was determined never to be attracted to anyone in the office. No relationship with another employee for me. So no noticing whether he  had a wedding ring or not.

Except I had noticed, along with being knocked breathless and unable to stop staring into those not-quite-blue and not-quite-green eyes while also being unable to say a single word. And I didn’t even know the guy.

So I sucked a lot of air, stared at my coffee and pretended I was making sure it didn’t spill, and then I mumbled something intelligible and steered around him. Avoid complications, I told myself. Forget the new guy. Ignore that he’s a hunk. Get to work.

I tried to steer around him, but it didn’t work. There wasn’t space, mostly because one of my married co-workers who thought everyone should enjoy marital bliss, had positioned herself so I was trapped between the coffee counter and the new man in the office.

So I did the only thing I could think of. I looked up into those intriguing eyes and said brightly, “Hi.” Intending to ask him to move when I was able to say more than a single word. Like a full sentence. Or at least a rational phrase. Anything more than one word.

He replied, “Hi. I’m Dan.” Then, still smiling, he added, “I’m the new guy.” Then, examining my face and realizing I didn’t look happy, he said tentatively, “Am I in your way?” and stepped aside so I could leave.

I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to stand there forever staring into that oh-so-masculine, friendly face. But in the mini-second available before having to either continue the conversation or go to my desk, I reminded myself of my vow about good sense regarding employee relationships, not to mention that at the moment I was still unable to say more than a single word. So best to leave.

“Thanks,” I croaked and managed what I was sure was a pathetic smile and went straight to my desk, being careful not to spill a drop of coffee and feeling his eyes on me the whole time. When I arrived, I slowly pulled out my chair, carefully set my coffee on the trivet I’d bought just for that purpose, and after seating myself and turning on my computer in the most professional manner possible, dared a peek back to the break room. I could see the coffee counter from my desk so I should see the new guy. Dan. His name was Dan.

He was gone. My insides deflated and I wanted to curl into a ball.

So what was wrong with me? Never in my entire life had any guy had such an effect on me in such a short time. Which meant I’d best never encounter him again and if by chance I couldn’t avoid an encounter, I should scurry away as fast as possible. Common sense said that was a good plan.

Except it turned out that he was part of my new group so I couldn’t avoid him. The group I’d not known existed because it hadn’t until then and it wasn’t ‘my group’ as in a group that belonged to me but was, instead, my group because I was a part of it.

My immediate boss came by and, after the usual requisite chit-chat, specifically instructed me to head for one of the smaller meeting rooms to become part of a group to be educated in ‘group dynamics.’ Whatever that was.

When I arrived, I discovered that the new guy – Dan — was in charge of the group and that was why he was there. He’d been brought in from another city because he was good at getting people to work together, a talent I don’t have and neither did anyone else in the newly created group.

Looking around, I realized we were the company loners and that must have been why we were singled out. We were a bunch of individualists. Until that moment, I’d thought of that as a good thing. But, as Dan explained in his comfortable, easy-going way with that smile that was as wide as the Mississippi River, sometimes people need to work together even if they are great as individualists and so it was a skill that Dalrymple thought we should learn. And he was there to teach us.

The first thing he asked of us was to divide ourselves into smaller breakout groups tasked with coming up with a solution to ‘imagination hesitation.’ We looked at each other with blank expressions until I screwed up my courage and timidly asked, “Could you explain the meaning of that phrase, please?” Glad that I was now able to speak more than one word when in his presence.

The smile that had blasted me that morning at the coffee counter got wider. Forget the Mississippi River, this time it was as wide as the Atlantic Ocean. “Nope. I won’t explain.” As our hearts sank and, along with our hearts, our collective hopes for a successful and perhaps short lesson on group dynamics, he added, “That’s part of the process. You must figure it out.”

A while later, while huddled over a table in our breakout room, we agreed that he was absolutely callus behind that beautiful smile. But since we all wanted to keep our jobs and hopefully advance at some unspecified date in the future, we set to work.

We tried. We really did try.

“What’s imagination hesitation?” We all agreed it was a mouthful.

“Don’t know. Don’t have a clue.” We shook our heads mournfully.

“We have to come up with something.” Blank looks met that statement.

“What if our something is the wrong something?” The mere idea caused panic.

Then something happened. A sniff was heard in the room. A very loud sniff and it came from me because I’d decided I’d had enough of this ridiculous exercise in whatever-it-was-called. No more! “Well, if he’s not going to give us any help – not even a hint – not even tell us what we’re supposed to do — then he’ll just have to make do with whatever we come up with and if we’re wrong, then it’ll be his fault and maybe he’ll be more careful in the future.” Because, as we all agreed as we sat around that table and stared at each other and wished we were anyplace except there, he clearly didn’t know how to do his job and Dalrymple should have known better than to bring him in.

Forget that he was gorgeous. He didn’t know how to do his job. So we spent the better part of an hour having fun with that ridiculous phrase he’d given us.

Turned out the whole point of the exercise was for us to work together to come with something and it didn’t matter what we ended up with or what we thought ‘imagination hesitation’ was as long as we worked together to figure it out. Which we had done in the course of having fun and we’d done it very nicely.

He beamed. “You guys are good. Excellent. And it only took one session You’re figuring how to work together and I believe you’ve learned that being part of a team isn’t so bad after all.” We sullenly agreed that it hadn’t been too awful though we all spent a lot of time later trying to come up with criticisms of the whole idea because we were, after all, loners and liked it that way. We failed to come up with a single thing to pick apart about the session even though we tried pretty hard.

After that breakout session came the one-on-one sessions. A meeting with each of us, one at a time. For evaluations. To learn the score we’d each earned, though when Dan and I sat across the table from each other, he didn’t mention scores or winners or losers. Instead he said, “Tell me what happened in there. How you came up with what you did. I’m intrigued.” He looked like he truly was interested but that was probably an act and I couldn’t wait to get out of there. And away from those blue-green eyes that were sucking me in big-time because if I stayed too long, I’d come to believe that he cared. Those eyes were just too much. Too gorgeous. Too friendly.

But even as I wanted to leave, I didn’t want that intimate one-on-one meeting to end because it was the kind of torture I’d gladly repeat on a daily basis for the rest of my life because being close to him did things to my body and mind and imagination that were both horrible and wonderful as I tried my best to take in what he was saying. And failed completely and didn’t know whether to be glad or disappointed when he ushered me out with that blinding smile that turned me to mush so he could have a similar conference with another of us independent thinkers.

I returned to my desk and spent the remainder of the day in a daze trying to figure out just what had happened and I was so deep in thought that I didn’t even notice when it was time to quit. So I was late leaving. I slouched through the door long after quitting time muttering things that weren’t very nice if anyone had heard them clearly because, though I do work hard, I don’t overwork.

“Hey.” I hoped he hadn’t heard as I looked into those maybe-blue and maybe-green eyes and into the same dazzling smile that had lit up the office earlier. “You’re Shelley, right?” I nodded and put up my guard. This man was too good-looking and smiled too broadly to be trusted with anything, especially not with that traitorous part of me that was so attracted to him.

Innocently he said, “You’re leaving late.” I nodded again and raised my guard a bit higher. “Does the fact that you are staying late mean you’re not in a hurry?”

I turned that question over and over in my mind in search of an ulterior motive but couldn’t find one, so I finally answered. “Yep. No hurry.” Which was true. There’s no rush to an empty apartment.

“Then I’m wondering if you can help me out.” How and why could this man who was seemingly perfect in every possible way need my help? If he had a problem, all he’d have to do was stand in the middle of a freeway and let that smile loose and everyone within a mile radius would come running.

But he’d asked and I was raised to be polite so I had to respond. I did so cautiously by asking my own question. “What kind of help?”

“I’m new here and stuck in a hotel room. I don’t even have a car. And I don’t know where to eat and I’m famished.” He kind of shrugged and that gesture made him a little more human. As if he was no longer quite the totally perfect male. Of course he was still close to perfection but close is different. I could talk with someone who was only close to perfection instead of actually being perfect. “Know any place?” He wanted to eat. He was hungry. I could relate to that because my own stomach was rumbling. “Somewhere within walking distance?”

I did know some restaurants because sometimes I went out to lunch or if I was in the mood, grabbed dinner before heading home. “There are several.”

“Where would you recommend?” Then, without smiling at all and with a twist of his lips that said he felt kind of foolish for asking, he added, “I have an idea. A suggestion. What say you come up with a place and I treat you to dinner?”

That slight movement of his body, a hesitation in a man who was the most put-together person I’d ever met was all that happened, but it somehow made him even more human. Not down to my level, of course, but closer than before. Normal enough to have dinner with. Still, I could hardly believe myself when I said my next words. “There’s a nice Chinese place a block away and, yes, I’d like dinner.”

During dinner, I learned something about Dan. That first smile I’d seen, the mega-watt one, was for show. His second smile, the one that came from across the table was his real smile and it was so much better. Smaller, not so flashy, the smile of a friend and intimate enough that my insides turned to mush as I managed to ask, because his demeanor and the lovely meal and conversation that went with it had emboldened me, “Do you intentionally come across like you did today?”

He knew exactly what I was talking about which meant that earlier smile was intentional and most likely practiced! “Yes because I don’t have much time to accomplish what I’ve been brought to do so it helps to go in with everything I’ve got.” He winced. “Why? Do I come across as over the top?”

I almost choked on my egg roll and couldn’t reply but he got the message as tears of laughter rolled down my cheeks. He sighed. “Okay. I’ll try to tame it down a bit but don’t be surprised if I fail because it was part of the training.” His eyes rolled. “And I’ve had a lot of tranining on how to do what I do.”

We stayed late, talking and just generally relaxing after a long day’s work and it was easier than I’d have thought now that I knew he was human after all. I learned about his two sisters who were married and disgusted with him because he was single and he learned that I’m an only child who grew up with a nice mother who worked long, hard hours without making much money.

“So you’re determined to give both you and your mother a comfortable life.” I nodded because even when he wasn’t working with groups there was something about him that invited the same confidence that had got us nerds working together earlier that day, a something that I was sure added to his success.

“I’ve never had to worry about money so it’s never been important to me. I’m fortunate in that way.” A simple statement few people would dare to make and one I suspected he’d never made before and my breath stopped as I realized the extent of trust he’d just given me. Beyond our professional relationship. Beyond Dalrymple. It was a personal thing and I held it in my heart and treasured it.

We looked at each other for a long time without speaking. Adjusting, learning, truly seeing each other for the first time and something happened to me during those moments. I didn’t know what it was except that I knew that the next day at work I’d see Dan differently and the effect he had on me physically would only add to whatever that new and very special something was.

Did he feel it too? Silly of me to think so. Doubly silly of me to hope he did.

But the next day, after another day of work and another session of group whatever-he-called-it that was easier because I now knew him better, when it was time to head home, he appeared as if by magic beside my desk. “Busy this evening?”

“Huh?” I’d been locking my desk drawers and hadn’t noticed him.

“You said there are several restaurants nearby. I’ve only tried one so far. What say we try a different one today?” Then, in a lower voice that wasn’t at all like that of the confident professional ably creating a cohesive group out of a bunch of individualist nerds, his voice was now exactly like anyone who was unsure of themselves as he added, “And while we dine, we can get to know one another better.” He cleared his throat. “If you’re interested.”

He looked positively uncertain and that look sealed the deal for me. I think it also sealed both my future and his. At least my reaction to that scalding look sealed our fate. Because what I said while looking straight into those blue-green eyes was, “Sure.” Followed by, “Let’s go.”

There are a lot of restaurants within walking distance of Dalrymple. We checked out each and every one of them but, before we tested the last one, we realized that we were an item. A couple. A reason for people to gather around the coffeemaker in the break room and gossip.

The employees at Dalrymple love to gossip. Each and every one of them.

“We knew it.” My married co-workers positively gleamed when I showed up for my usual morning cup of coffee around the time Dan and I had gone through most of the near-by restaurants. I looked cautiously at their knowing faces as they continued smugly, “We just knew you two were right for each other.”

Someone waved a coffee cup and spilled coffee and spoke while wiping the table clean. “I deserve the credit. I got them together. It was my hard work that threw them into each other’s arms that first day.”

The speaker was my co-worker who’d made sure I couldn’t avoid Dan that first day by blocking my way and she now tossed the paper towel in the trash and examined the clean table top with satisfaction. She waved her hands, careful this time not to spill anything. “But no thanks are necessary. Just name your first kid after me.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” I stuck my nose in the air and tried to go around her while pretending I had no intention of engaging with their gossip. I failed. She blocked me just as she’d done once before.

“Won’t work, Shelley. We recognize love when we see it.” Everyone laughed, as usual, and I turned red as a beet. “Just don’t forget to invite every one of us to the wedding.”

“After all, you wouldn’t have met if not for us.” They gave me a bunch of hard looks that said they meant every word they were saying.

At which point Dan showed up for his own morning cup of coffee. Looked at me, then at the others scattered throughout the room. And instantly knew what was going on because he’s that kind of person. It’s why he does what he does and is so good at it. Because he’s intuitive and quick to read a room.

He didn’t say anything. Instead, he simply filled his cup with coffee and came close and hooked his free arm through my free arm and led us from the room slowly enough that we didn’t spill a single drop and fast enough to get us out of there before anyone could say another word.

He had, indeed, heard the conversation. When we were in the main office that was empty because everyone was still in the break room, he steered us around a corner and put his cup down on a nearby desk and said, “That’s a good idea. What say we follow her suggestion?”

“What are you talking about? What suggestion?” I wished I wasn’t blushing but wishing didn’t make it go away.

“A name has been put forth for our first-born child. We should give it some thought. Save us some name games when the day comes.”

“What first-born child?”

“The one that’ll come after we’ve been married for a while.” He smirked. He actually smirked. “That first-born child.”

I put down my own coffee very carefully because I didn’t want to spill anything on Dalrymple’s expensive office furniture and thought for approximately a half-second. “Okay. You’re right. It’ll save time and effort to already have a name available.” I took a deep breath. “When we have that first-born child. After we are married.”

And that was what we did though when the time came we named her after my mother and my co-worker wasn’t insulted after all. Instead, she thought it was a lovely thing to do.

THE END

Happy Birthday Teresa Jane

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, TERESA JANE

by

Florence Witkop

Ross dropped wearily onto the couch. “We’re done.”

“Done enough.” There were still a few boxes here and there, but I could handle them. I was a stay-at-home mom until Teresa had a few years of school, a decision we’d made when she was born.

“I was afraid I’d not get a decent night’s sleep before starting my new job.” He wiggled his body and closed his eyes and breathed contentment. “Now I know I will and I need it. Moving is hard work and I look forward to a summer of catching up and doing absolutely nothing.”

“Don’t get too comfortable.”

He opened one eye. “Why not?”

“Teresa’s birthday is coming fast.” The birthday that meant she could start school. She was excited.

“So?”

“So she wants a party.”

“Naturally. Five years is a milestone birthday.”

I sighed and repeated my previous statement one word at a time. Slowly. “She. Wants. A. Party.”

“Of course she does and I don’t see the problem.” He lay his head back and opened the other eye and stared at the ceiling.

“We just moved and don’t know anyone.”

“So?” He still didn’t get it.

“So parties normally involve guests and whom will we invite to Teresa’s party if we don’t know anyone?” I didn’t have to add that our little girl was turning into a social butterfly because she’d made that abundantly clear during the few years she’d been on earth. She loved people. Loved parties. Loved parties with wall to wall people.

“Oh dear.” He sat up, groaning at what the effort had cost his body. “A problem we’ll have to solve somehow.” He brightened. “We’ll convince her that a party with only family in attendance is the best kind of celebration.”

“Won’t work. I already tried.”

“Oh.” He slumped back to his former resting position and sighed. “Then you’re right. It’s a problem.” After a moment of thought, he almost smiled. “Which is why I’m glad I must concentrate on my new job in order to do a bang-up job of being the sole support of my family while you deal with the problem of Teresa’s birthday.”

“Won’t work, big guy. We’re in this together.”

He rubbed the back of his neck. “Okay. I had to try. But you’re right.” Silence lay long and heavy in the room. “We’ll figure it out. Somehow. We have to because we love Teresa and she loves parties.” That was the end of the discussion, not because we didn’t care but because neither of us could come up with a single solution to the problem of Teresa’s birthday.

But Ross was right in a way because, since I was a full-time homemaker and he did have to concentrate on making good at a brand new job, it was kind of up to me to figure out how to provide a party filled with people for a little girl when we didn’t know a single person in our new city.

I spoke with Teresa about it the next morning after we’d finished planting a row of beans. “Honey, you do know that we are new here.”

“Yep. New house. New yard. New garden.” That we’d been working on until deciding to take a break. “I like gardens.” Almost as much as she liked parties.

“The thing is, your old friends are pretty far away.”

“I know.”

“It’s too long of a drive for them to come for a visit.”

“I know.” She rolled her eyes. “I fell asleep in the car.”

“Too far for them to come to your party.”

“Yep.” Teresa the four-year-old clean freak, washed her hands with the hose, inspected the dirt still beneath her fingernails, and washed them again. “Too far.”

“So it’ll be a small party.”

Her nose wrinkled. “I don’t like little parties. I want a big one.” Her blue eyes turned towards me in complete confidence. “We have to make a big cake because lots of people will come. Because it’s my special birthday.” She dried her hands and led the way back to the new garden-in-progress to get them dirty all over again. “Because I’ll be old enough to go to school.”

This time, she informed me, we’d plant flowers instead of stuff to eat because she loved flowers, especially pink ones, as I sighed and wondered how I’d failed so spectacularly to get across to her that no one would come to her party.

That afternoon, when we were both relatively clean and fed and didn’t want to get dirty all over again working in the garden, she asked if she could take a walk. “It’s safe. You said so.”

We had said that. When we were looking for a house, as soon as the real estate agent learned we had a small child, she said she knew the perfect place and she was right. We were at the end of a cul-de-sac and the only cars that came or went belonged to people who lived there and they drove slowly and carefully, as did we once we’d moved in.

They were our neighbors, the ones we’d not yet met, and though I looked forward to knowing them, the weather hadn’t been good and most of them worked and there just hadn’t been the right occasion to meet anyone. So now I sighed and thought about Teresa walking in a strange place.

“I want to see what the old people are doing,” she said when the silence had gone on too long.

“Old people?”

She pointed through the front window to the rather large circle of land at the end of the cul de sac. I’d assumed it would be grass but as we went to the window to see better, we saw a group of people planting things much as we’d been planting a garden in our back yard. Most of them had gray hair and no one seemed in a hurry. Teresa’s ‘old’ people.

We didn’t know them. On the other hand, their presence gave a patina of safety to a small child’s walk. “If you don’t go too far. When you reach the end of the block, instead of crossing the street, you turn around and come back. Then, when you reach our house you come inside and tell me.”

She considered that for a moment. “If I do, then after telling you can I walk around the other side of the circle all the way to the street and then back? Around the old people?”

“Yes, if you do exactly as I said.”

She nodded shortly and grabbed a bottle of water that she strapped to her shoulders because this was a major expedition for an almost-five-year-old girl. She made sure her pink sneakers with lights on them were tied tight and that she had sun-screen on and a hat for shade. All the things major expeditions required. Then she left and I watched her through the window.

She did as she’d been told. She walked in the precise center of the sidewalk past the grassy center of the cul de sac and all the way to the end of the street and stood there for a minute or so watching cars pass by and a dog play across the street. Then she turned smartly, like a soldier, and came back, still in the middle of the sidewalk, until she reached our new house. She came inside and looked a question at me. “Was I good?”

“You were good.”

She took a long drink of water and smoothed her pink jeans that matched her pink sneakers with lights. “So can I go around the old people and go to the street that way?”

She’d circle that grassy center and continue on along the other side. Then, if she repeated what she’d done on her first walk, she’d turn around and come back, once again around the center full of senior citizens planting a garden, and then when she’d fully rounded the circle, she’d be home again.

So I agreed. “You can but stay on the sidewalk.” I stooped to her level so she’d know that what I would say next was important. “But you can’t cross the street to visit with them.”

She was disappointed. “I can’t?”

“There could be cars and you know you can’t cross streets unless you are holding someone’s hand.” Were we too protective? Probably, but we’d decided it was better to be safe than sorry and who wanted a child to grow up too fast anyway? Keep her little as long as possible.

She clearly wanted to visit the gardeners but resignation showed in her face. “Okay.”

She trudged outside again on her second expedition in one day. All the way around the circle and as she walked, the gardeners in the center waved to her and called out.

When she came home, reproach was clear in her face. “I didn’t cross the street. They wanted me to, they called and everything, but I didn’t.” I told her I was proud of her.

We went shopping for her birthday party the next day. I tried to limit the number of purchases to what three people would use but she’d have none of it. Besides which they all came in packages of a dozen or more. And she insisted on several packages of each. Hats. Noise makers. Party favors. And lots and lots of crepe paper.

As we passed the stationary aisle, she tugged at my hand and pointed. “I need invitations too.” My heart sank. One thing she’d not need. But she was so adamant that I bought them because I was afraid that if I didn’t, my normally sensible almost-five-year-old daughter would have a meltdown in the middle of the stationary aisle.

That afternoon, we planned a birthday party complete with how to decorate the living and dining rooms and where to place the cake on the table. And we wrote out invitations. I did the writing and she signed her name because she knew how, along with knowing her colors and numbers and pretty much everything I’d not known at her age. Then I said brightly, “I’ll put them on the top shelf so they won’t get lost.” Where, hopefully, being out of sight, she’d forget they existed.

“Okay,” she said happily. “We don’t need them today.” She skipped to the door. “We can give them to people later.” I breathed a sigh of relief and we had ice cream for dessert that night and watched movies till past her bedtime because I cannily figured that would help her forget the invitations that would never be used.

The day after the party planning day and two days before her actual birthday we made her birthday cake. “Because it’s almost my birthday and we need to be ready.” It was white with pink frosting and we made pink cookies to match and put the cake on a lovely cake stand from my mother to see how it would look during the actual party. “Like you used to have for your birthdays,” she said as I almost cried and didn’t know whether it was from remembering those long ago days or because of the upcoming birthday that was looking more and more like a disaster.

When there was just one day to go Teresa informed me she wanted to take another walk and that she knew the rules so I didn’t have to watch from the door. “Besides,” she said with a sweeping gesture to the senior citizens who were almost done with their garden in the center of the cul de sac. “If anyone tries to take me they’ll stop him.” She finished with the unassailable, “I’m almost five. I’m not a little girl any more.”

So I did a bit of my own gardening in the back yard and managed not to check on her at all though I gave a huge sigh of relief when I heard the front door open and close and soon after the kitchen door open, after which she joined me. But she didn’t help because she’d worn her favorite dress, the one with flowers all over it and puffy sleeves, along with her shiny black Mary Jane shoes. “I don’t want to get them dirty because I’m going to wear them tomorrow at my birthday party.”

I rose with a sigh and we adjourned to the living room from which we could see the senior citizens packing up their gardening things. As they left, they waved our way and Teresa waved back through the picture window. “They are done. They told me so.”

“You talked with them?”

“Of course. They are planting flowers and I like flowers, especially pink ones and they said pink is the prettiest color.”

I sighed again. What else could I do as I also waved while the gardeners walked to their respective houses around the cul de sac and along the street to the main thoroughfare. “Some day we’ll get to  know them,” I said. “They are our neighbors.” Teresa nodded and waved to the last senior citizen disappearing into his home two doors down.

Teresa’s birthday dawned bright and clear and I wished I could stick my head beneath my pillow and pretend it had never come. But I couldn’t do that. Teresa was beside our bed and jumping up and down with eagerness to get this milestone day started. Ross and I looked at each other and girded ourselves for the tragedy that was about to happen.

Teresa didn’t notice. She hummed and sang and danced as we decorated the house. The whole house. She danced as she put the cake in its place of honor in the center of the dining room table and managed to not drop it. She looked at the clock and every few minutes asked if it was one o’clock in the afternoon yet because that’s when the party would begin. She knew a lot for her age but she still found time daunting.

“Honey, wouldn’t it be fun to just have a three-person party?” I asked brightly. “Your dad, you and me?”

She stopped moving long enough to stare at me as if I had two heads. “I want people at my party.” She gestured theatrically. “Lots of people.”

There was nothing to say, no way of preparing her for the heartbreak that was about to happen. We watched with dread as the clock ticked inevitably towards one o’clock and doom. I wished we didn’t have a grandfather clock that made all kinds of noise every hour, but we did.

One o’clock rolled around. Teresa was a ball of motion. We were trying desperately to figure out how to deal with the trauma that was on the horizon.

Then the doorbell rang.

Ross and I looked at each other and shrugged our shoulders. “A delivery? From her grandparents, perhaps?” Except they’d already sent presents that were on a small table in the corner of the dining room.

Ross answered. Three elderly people stood in the open doorway, smiling. I recognized them though it took a moment to place where I’d seen them. Then I remembered. They were part of the senior citizen gardening contingent. And they each carried a pink, blooming plant.

“For Teresa.”

“For her birthday.”

“Because she likes pink.”

Teresa zoomed around us and welcomed our guests before we could figure out what was happening. She pointed to the table with her grandparents’ presents. “Put them there.” Good manners surfaced. “But you didn’t have to bring anything. You could have cake anyway.” She thought hard. “Because I invited you.”

My look went to the top shelf where I’d put the invitations. It was empty.

I remembered that walk the previous day. The one I didn’t watch and realized that before leaving the house our almost five year old daughter must have stood on the chair and then the small table that was beside the shelves and got them down all by herself. And delivered them.

The doorbell rang again. Another contingent of senior citizens, this one accompanied by a little boy of about Teresa’s age. “Hi, Teresa.” A package was thrust at her. “This is for you and I figured you wouldn’t mind if I brought my grandson. He lives five houses down and has been dying to meet you.”

Ross and I stood in stunned amazement as two more groups arrived. These weren’t senior citizens but I recognized neighbors from seeing them come and go during the day. And two children were with them who soon were added to the growing group of kids who’d all wanted to meet the new kid on the block.

Soon the house was bursting to the seams with people of all ages and every one of them knew Teresa because, when she took that walk the previous day, she’d gone up to every single house and either given them an invitation in person or left one on their doorstep. And they were all laughing and saying how nice it was to meet us at last. And to have been invited to a birthday party.

I took Ross aside. “We need more cake. And ice cream. And pop.”

“Stall them with some kind of getting-acquainted game while I make a grocery run. I’ll be fast.”

So I did. Or rather so did Teresa, who proved to be an excellent hostess. One of our neighbors, a youngish man with a scraggly beard and expensive jeans said he’d vote for her. She looked puzzled and so did I. “When she runs for President.” He sagely checked out the assembled group. “Which I have no doubt she’ll do some day. Considering what she did here today there’s no limit to what she’ll accomplish as an adult”

Ross returned with enough decadent food for an army and we proceeded with Teresa’s birthday party. We all sang Happy Birthday and the sound sent the birds in the back yard away in terror at all the noise.

We didn’t mind. We were just glad our daughter was having the kind of fifth birthday party she’d so badly wanted. Even though she had to arrange it herself. And, yes, we agreed later as we wearily but happily sank onto the couch and closed our eyes in the ecstasy of relaxation at last and let the anxiety of the past week or so drain away, she just might be President some day.

THE END

Tug Of War

I hate tug-of-war. Not only do I always lose, I don’t like the symbolism, the concept of having to choose which side to be on.

Because I don’t like choosing sides.

Why are we expected to take sides anyway? Who said so?

I suppose there are situations where there truly are sides.

But not many.

Qustions Drive Me Crazy

These Questions Drive Me Crazy

There are too many unknowns in the world and the not knowing is driving me crazy.

For instance —

Why DID the chicken cross the road? Does anyone really know? Did anyone ask the chicken? And if they did, what did the chicken answer and how come you speak ‘chicken’ anyway?

Okay, that’s more than one question but that only illustrates my point. Too many questions! Too many unknowns!

What don’t you know that’s driving you crazy?

Don’t Let This Rabbit Miss Easter

Don’t Let This Rabbit Miss Easter

Poor rabbit. He’s afraid he’ll miss Easter and he knows it. Just look at his expression.

Not every rabbit has a calendar, you know, and I suspect that causes problems, not to mention that Easter doesn’t always fall on the same Sunday so even if he does have a calendar, it might not help.

Do you know any rabbit with a current calendar? I don’t, so I suspect that if the poor guy did have one it would be last year’s. Or worse.

I think someone should mount a campaign so no rabbit goes unrecognized on Easter. It shouldn’t be too hard. Just go into any garden and wait a while and they’ll arrive and we can tell them the correct date so they’ll know when to scatter painted eggs and be loved and admired by every nearby kid.

Should be easy. Let’s do it.

School And Kids

School And Kids

I love kids. All kids but there’s a special place in my heart for kids in the primary grades and not just because I’m a former first grade teacher.

I love them because at that age kids are happy, optimistic, and ebullient. They all want to learn and they all believe that they can.

Side note: They can learn. They all can.

In all the years I taught first grade, I never met a kid who didn’t want to learn. Never met one who didn’t believe they could learn to read and conquer the world.

They just need the chance.

Counting Flower Petals

Counting Flower Petals

I count the petals on flowers. Do you?

Why? Isn’t having a lovely flower enough without having to know exactly how much beauty we are holding in our hands?

Are we measuring happiness? If so, what other ways do we measure it? And what do we find out when we count those petals?

Do you count petals?

Very Large Horses

Horses Are Very Large

A horse-loving daughter convinced us that we needed horses. We decided she was right and got a horse. Then another. And so on. When we got that first horse, we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. But we learned! Did we ever learn!

The main thing to know about horses is that they like to go visiting. As in break through their fencing and wander about the countryside. Especially if you have one horse that’s unusually social. We had such a horse. And when he went visiting, the rest of the horses went with him.

Our neighbors were wonderful. We got calls when our horses showed up in their barnyards. And we went to get them.

One time, my daughter – the horsewoman – and I were the only people home when we got such a call. So we went to get the horses. And guess what – I had to help bring them home. Which meant I had to actually get on one of them and ride said horse home while helping to convince the others to follow.

This took place along a busy highway.

I was never so scared in my life.

My daughter, of course, wasn’t unfazed and when we got home said, “That was nice, wasn’t it?”

I still love horses.

From a distance.

The Power Of Cupcakes

The Power of Cupcakes

Cupcakes are a ‘thing.’ Everyone knows that.

What most people don’t know is how powerful a cupcake is.

Think about it.

It’s small enough not to feel guilty about eating one. And since there’s no obvious spot missing to show that you sneaked a treat as there would be if you cut out a piece of a cake, no one will know if you eat more than one. Or more than two. Or more than three. And so on.

See what I mean? Just by existing and sitting so innocently on the kitchen counter and looking so delicious they draw us in until we succumb to their siren’s song.

All that taste! All those calories! And we don’t regret eating them because no one will know unless they count and who counts cupcakes? Not my friends because they like cupcakes too!

Yes, cupcakes are powerful. No doubt about it.

Coffee, Anyone? Or Tea?

Morning Coffee

When I realized that coffee was giving me indigestion, I almost had an emotional breakdown. I mean, who can live without coffee, especially in the morning? I certainly couldn’t.

How could I surivive without my morning coffee? COULD I survive? Not likely!

Actually, tragedy never did strike. I did survive. I transitioned to tea and it wasn’t even difficult.

Did you know you can drink tea with cream and sugar or those wonderful flavored creams?

So I’m now a dedicated tea drinker.

I hope tea never gives me indigestion. If it does, what will I do next?