Life Topics

An Accidental Guest

I returned home after my early routine swim at the gym as the gray muted dawn was turning to daylight.  Although the leaves haven’t turned colors yet, the damp smell of rain and the scent of weathering leaves was in the air.  Closing the door gently, as not to wake my husband, I quietly stepped down into the entryway.  Taking off my shoes, I could feel the cold tile floor.  Autumn was slowly inching its way into the house.  I changed out of my swimsuit and hung the towel and suit in the only warm sliver of sunshine on the back deck.  It was time to start the day.

Walking into the kitchen, I noticed out the front window, a person taking a walk on my street.  She was above average height with flowing, below the shoulders, blonde hair covered with a baseball cap.  I stood for a moment registering that I might know her.  She had earbuds in, and her gait was long with a bit of a rhythmic lift.  I could tell she was listening to something upbeat.  Then, it hit me.  That’s Kate! I have a soft spot for Kate as her company always brings me to a place of comfort and delight.  Gosh, I haven’t seen her in such a long time I thought.  I had to invite her in.

I ran outside and caught her off guard.  Kate! I called from the end of the short driveway.  She realized it was me, and gave me a bright smile and a hello, as she removed her earbuds.   We are always happy to see each other.  Before she could say anything else, I said, “Come in for a cup of coffee.”  She quickened her pace, as she walked toward me, and said, “I would love to.”  No discussion, no place to go.  My heart soared.  It felt like “the old days” when people would just drop in for coffee, like Lucy and Ethel did.   No plans, just a spontaneous encounter.

Hugs and smiles and giddy thoughts danced inside the kitchen.  I learned she takes her coffee with milk, and don’t be stingy with the milk!  I, on the other hand, am a hardcore strong black coffee drinker.  She complimented my kitchen, and I showed her what knitting I was working on, as we slowly made our way toward the back door.  It was a sweatshirt-optional type of day before the bluster of cold winds or frost had arrived.  My husband sat in his chair in the corner of the yard where the sun shone brightly.  We moved outside toward the comfy seats under the small pavilion with a covered gas firepit.  It was shady, but still held some infused warmth of the sun and our friendship.

We laughed at our mothers, our antics and generally “talked treason” as the Irish say.  Kate is an academic, teacher, writer, poet, musician, and Fairy Queen.  She believes in magic, and she believes in herself.  I share her love of writing, poetry, and the Irish culture. In fact, she will soon be teaching the Irish language at Harvard.  Impressive.  Kate talked about the process of writing, as I confessed, I was writing a stalled memoir.  And, although she is a published poet, she has also recently finished writing a novel.  We enthusiastically encouraged each other’s creativity in following through on our beloved projects.  “I want to be a real writer” I said, and she told me I could do it.  I believe her.

The remains of my coffee were starting to get cold, as we talked about Irish musicians.  I should have offered her another cup, but she was starting to shift, as if to stand.  It was time to really start my day.  Getting up, she said, “It’s time to move on.”  I was slightly disappointed, as the time just flew by.  Enjoying simple moments with a friend can introduce you to aspects of yourself you may not see.  It’s like being in a foreign place and finding the only person who speaks your language. Then we walked toward the door, with a short stop to scratch my dog McDermott, then out to the driveway.  As we stood in the sun, we reiterated words of encouragement and support, as friends do.  Kate took her earbuds out of her pocket and held them in her hand.  We hugged and said goodbye.  The last thing I said was, “if you’re ever walking by, just give a knock to see if I’m home.”

Maybe I’ll see her again soon.

Author: Jo Toale

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