The weather on Christmas Eve was windy and rainy and cold but I was determined to run to Elsy’s at some point and pop a Christmas card in her mailbox. Elsy’s the sweet little old lady who lives in the house across the street from us (the first smiley face to the right of the bakery, on the map). I had a Christmas card for her, in return for the one she gave to us the week before.
So I waited and waited for the rain to stop on Christmas Eve, but it wouldn’t stop. I cursed myself for not giving Elsy her card earlier in the week when the skies were clearer. I ran out with a coat and hat and I was going to drop her card into her mailbox when I saw her lights on through her front window. She was home so I knocked on her front door and she opened it. She looked beautiful!
Until then I’d only seen Elsy outside in her housecoats and aprons with her broom and squeegees in hand. With her kids grown and busy and having lost her husband years ago, Elsy spends her days cleaning and tending to the front of her house. She’s got the cleanest windows and walkways and driveway on the street because she has a strict cleaning routine every day.
But on Christmas Eve, Elsy was wearing a black cashmere sweater over a white blouse with lace collar. She was perfumed and wearing makeup and jewelry. Her curly white hair was brushed and presumably shaped into a a perfect square around her head. I told Elsy she looked very pretty and wished her lots of Christmas joy before handing her the Christmas card.
She invited me in “for a minute” and in my head I yelled I can’t I’m too busy preparing for my party, but just smiled and nodded and entered Elsy’s front door.
Elsy’s sister was also visiting and there sitting in the dining room. We greeted each other and Elsy then asked me to sit down “for five minutes” and chat with them. I shouted in my head I can’t I still have mushrooms to slice and eggplant to fry, but I slid out one of Elsy’s dining chairs out and sat my ass down.
Elsy told her sister all about me and how I was Korean and how little Noah was so friendly and our family so beautiful and the nicest neighbors. I really was so touched that Elsy would speak so highly of us to her sister. I chatted with the two ladies and they were impressed with my Dutch. But the truth is, neither Elsy nor her sister spoke any English so I had to speak my best Dutch. I was totally into it!
And then Elsy’s old photo albums came out from out of nowhere, before I could even say turkey baster! I shrieked at myself I can’t I can’t I can’t but really I could and so I did.
I ignored the voice in my head again. I stayed put. I enjoyed seeing photos of a younger Elsy with dark hair before it went white, as a mother of the bride on her daughter’s wedding day, and then as a gray-haired grandmother to her sole grandchild. Elsy was so pleased to have me for the whole twenty minutes we spent together on Christmas Eve. I left her house saying I had to check on my big turkey, which I did, and it was still raining outside. The rain never let up until the wee hours of the morning and by then my turkey had been devoured to the bones and Elsy was home after spending Christmas Eve at her daughter’s house.
For twenty minutes of my Christmas Eve I was mindful of someone else unexpectedly.
What a wonderful unexpected gift.