From the time I was born until I was ten years old my family lived next door to Mr. and Mrs. Allison. We lived in a blue-collar, working class neighborhood where the men worked, the women stayed home, and the older folks mentored the young couples who were creating and raising the baby boom generation.
Mr. and Mrs. Allison were one of the older couples. I know this because Mrs. Allison had blue hair. If they had children they were grown and gone by the time I came to know them. Mr. Allison worked for some kind of public works or utilities company. He drove a big truck that had a water cooler on it. I remember many times during the hot west-Texas summers getting a treat of ice-cold water in a pointed white cup from his truck. It was OK with him. He allowed all the neighborhood children to drink the water.
Mrs. Allison stayed inside most of the time. I would visit her on occasion either with my little sister or with a neighborhood friend. We really went there for the orange slices, and I’m pretty sure Mrs. Allison knew it. They weren’t the fresh fruit kind; they were the gummy, sugar-coated ones. They were in a very pretty candy dish with a glass top that sat on a side table next to her couch.
She was always seated next to the window in her recliner. The front door was open and the screen door unlocked. A knock on the door would get a welcoming “come in.” We would go in to her tiny living room, and when invited to sit, we chose the couch, closest to the candy dish. But, with Mrs. Allison, you knew that you would need to visit for a while before being offered the yummy orange slices. Or sometimes she would invite us to make our own way into her kitchen for a cookie or some other sugary dessert.
I can’t tell you how many times I visited Mrs. Allison. And I don’t recall what we talked about. But I sure remember that candy dish and the orange slices.
Mrs. Allison taught the young children in the neighborhood, well me anyway, many things. She taught me the art of conversation. She taught me meaningful skills, such as don’t sit down until invited to do so, and don’t ask for candy until it’s offered. When offered, then accept it graciously with a “thank you.” You might think that I already knew all these rules because I did have very good parents. But, I specifically remember Mrs. Allison schooling us on these social graces.
After we ate candy or cookies, we knew that we needed to wait around for a little while longer before we made our departure. To do otherwise would be rude.
It was many years before I realized that Mrs. Allison was probably lonely during the day and enjoyed these visits from her little neighbors. She knew how to live in the moment and make the most of her company.
I don’t know if she ever knew what a lasting impression she made on a little girl. I knew her 50 years ago; but, I will never forget her and the important things she taught me.
I hope that I can be as patient, kind, and gracious with all visitors in my life. I need to live in the moment and enjoy who I am with for the time I am with them. I hope that I can be mindful especially of the littlest ones and the oldest ones. I think they need us the most.
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