As a girl, I had a wise and gentle neighbor, I'll call him Mr Smith. He lived with his wife and children in the house to our right.
One hot and muggy morning in July when I was about six years old I spotted Mr Smith sitting on his front steps. I was an awkward and shy girl and found it uncomfortable to approach people, yet Mr Smith had such a warm nature, he asked nothing of me but to sit with him while he had breakfast and that made me feel special. So I walked up the steps and sat down in a squat and wrapped my arms around my knees. To tell you the truth I have no memory of what we were talking about, my memory is of how it felt to sit beside some one so accepting and relaxed. Mr Smith was eating a bowl of blueberries with milk. He ate berries the way they should be eaten and it is a memory that has stayed with me for forty five years. To me they looked like they were the most wonderfully sweet and fresh berries ever, the milk looked extra creamy, fresh and cool. He took each spoonful and smiled as he chewed and viewed our small street. What I saw was how clearly Mr Smith was enjoying this moment, and in his presence I almost tasted the berries. I felt that same contentment, I smelled the earthiness of summer and I listened to the noises of the morning on our street under the trees. We saw together the magic of the moment.
Let me be clear in saying Mr Smith was not always quiet. He just knew how to “be” with each person. Take my brothers for instance:
My brothers were full of adrenaline and mischief. As life in a small town could be boring they became inventive in ways of creating some drama. I remember a day they decided to throw crab apples at Mr and Mrs Smiths front door. Now that would be fun! We could throw the apples or ring the door bell and run! Mr Smith will come out and be shocked!
And so it began...ring ring or a splatter of apples on the door and Mr Smith would open the door “RRRooaoaaaar! He would run around the yard chasing my brothers as they laughed until he caught them and said they would be sent to the dungeon. The boys were sent into the house and down to the cellar prison where they played some more before they were into the kitchen of Mr and Mrs Smith for a snack and more laughter.
Mr Smith didn't see himself as the victim of childhood pranks, he saw himself invited into the world of childhood fantasy.
I sadly remember when the Smiths moved and a new family moved in. My brothers giggled and once again threw apples at the front door of our new neighbor. Yet the man that came out this time was furious that his door was dirty and went to yell at my mother for her unruly children. So the chance of a day in the dungeon followed by cookies and smiles was a memory.
As I thought of Mr Smith this morning I came to add something else to my list of what successful means to me. May I be an adult that children can walk up to and see I still “get it”. Fun and magic are everywhere, you need nothing more than all those moments given to you each day and if you want extra spice, your imagination is always available.