When I was a kid and an ambulance pulled into one of the driveways on the street everybody called everybody else and pretty soon the casserole patrol was lining up food for the family until the crisis passed. The word neighbor had a friendly connotation back then. And for the really bad stuff there were the church ladies. These gals had hair that had been sprayed into place with high-powered aerosol from a hard pink tall can. They went to the beauty shop on Saturday morning, drank coffee, chewed Dentyne, traded stories under the dryer, and when they came back they were outfitted and ready for whatever battle the world threw at them. Those helmets of curls and waves could withstand any storm. They’d sent their husbands and sons to war, gone to work to keep the country running, and by God they could handle a little thing like a wayward teenager or a death in the family with one hand tied behind their backs. Those women were a force. And I miss them
What you do now if your life goes to pieces is call up a therapist who you probably found on the Internet and then you drive to their office and tell them your hard stories. They nod sympathetically, and offer a thoughtful forum where your own thoughts and ideas can bloom, and then you pay them and go back to the mess that you probably mostly made yourself, and that now you have to solve without out that comforting noodle bake from the church ladies.
We have had a hard spring. Couple of years ago we went pretty well bust from a crummy business decision, (when you buy and sell and start businesses and have had more than your fair share of success, you start to think your luck will hold, only then it doesn’t, because of course luck always goes both ways, and that’s a real wake up call is all I can tell you) and life had just about returned to normal financially after a couple of good business decisions and a lot of hard work and digging out. Only now there is a new kind of trouble. There is a sadness in our house without an immediate or obvious solution. And this morning after a dark night with lots of teary phone calls and recriminations, mixed with threats and hard words all around, I keep thinking about that beauty shop, old fashioned neighbors and those infallible church ladies. I have a friend who says she channels me when she has to be exuberant or put on a sales face. I get that. Coming as I do from a long line of over reactors I channel her when I have to be rational and calm. And now I am channeling a 1970s strip mall beauty shop and those gum cracking, wise women who knew that the key to almost any problem lay in their kitchens and over their back fences. I am roasting rhubarb with real vanilla beans and filling a vase with some tulips and before it is all over I may even make myself a noodle bake. Because the real wisdom of those ladies will not be found in a psychology text book or on a therapist’s couch. What they knew way back then, and what they are reminding me of now, is that sometimes things just must be endured. And while they are happening you fill your kitchen with good smells, you get your hair fixed, put on some lipstick and wait for the worst of the storm to pass. It will of course. Hard as it is to predict a favorable outcome right now, what I know for sure is that in a year or two it will have already come and gone. It may be better or it may get worse, but this moment will have passed. And with it this spring, and these trees with their little hopeful buds and the singing robins who are making nests filled with twigs , birch bark, our dryer fuzz, and promise. Plenty of promise, as they simply and steadily go on about the business of making spring happen one more time.
You never know how many springs you will get so it pays to keep the ones you have. And so I will keep even this hard one. I intend to keep it with rhubarb and tulips and maybe some baby chicks, and for sure a whole bunch of deviled eggs from the grown up girls out back. It may be hard but the sun is coming closer and the ground has gotten soft. We have roosters crowing in the back yard and pretty soon there will be lilacs. Lilacs demand gratitude. It’s spring. Time to pay some attention…..