Ode to Mrs. Christie….

Long ago in a galaxy far far away called my childhood, I lived in Virgina.  My Mother and I were lucky enough to live in a house with my grandparents.  My entire world for my first nine years was that house, and the surrounding neighborhood.

This tiny community of homes were filled with a hodge-podge of wonderfully eclectic people.  There was Mrs. Ely across the street who was known to us kids as the Cat Lady.  She had herds of cats that followed her around, hid in her bushes and populated her house.  She also thought she had been reincarnated. If she lived today, there would probably be a reality show about her.  There was Elsie, our backdoor neighbor. She was from Estonia and spoke with a beautiful Slavic accent. She would babysit me in a pinch, and would let me help her cook in the amazing aroma of her steamy kitchen where the smell of cardamon abounded.  There was Mr. Tom, next door who would pitch the baseball to his son, and let me play too. He would encourage us with a baseball coach kinda voice to hit it outta the park…a.k.a. the teeny tiny backyard where we played.  There was Mr. Dana on the other side who was the organist at our church and lived alone.  People speculated quite a bit about him for some reason.  There was Evie Trigger (isn’t that a cool name!) on the corner….my older and wiser friend.  She was probably 10 years old to my five.   My Mother thought she would lead me into mischief so my playtime with her was limited.  Who knows what I would have done with my life if a little more mischief had been injected into my formative years.  Oh well….

And then….there was Mrs. Christie.  Mrs. Christie was married to …Mr. Christie.  I never even knew their first names.  They were Old…which meant they were older than Evie!    For all I know, they were in their 20’s.  They were childless, but appeared to love children….those children being US.  And, they were NICE and that was the main thing.  In the summertime, as often as we were allowed, my playmates Leah, Timmy, and I would head down to see Mrs. Christie.  She lived three houses down from ours, which was beyond my independent boundary, so I had to ask permission to go.  I wasn’t allowed to go nearly as many times as I asked, because my grandmother said that she didn’t want me to bother her.  I don’t really think we ever did.

When we rang Mrs. Christie’s doorbell, she would always open the door with an unexpected look of surprise on her face and invite us to sit a spell in her screened in porch.  One side of the porch had a wooden bench swing, and the other had chairs with cushions.  She would insist that we take turns on the swing.  Once we had agreed on the seating arrangement of the day, she would excuse herself for a moment.  We knew the drill, we knew what she was doing, so we would sit quietly and politely, I might add,  and wait in anticipation.   She would return with a tea pot and a tray of cookies.  She would pour us tea in real china cups with saucers.  It was Cambridge Tea with milk.  This was long before lattes had been thought up.  She told us the name and I’ve remembered it always.   And let me tell you, we thought we were all that before it was even a thing to be aspired.

Mrs. Christie would then sit and give us her full attention and ask us questions and wait for the answers.  She made us feel important. It was such a good feeling.   Oddly enough, even as a child, I sensed it made her feel important too.  I actually don’t know if we went for the tea or that special feeling.  Now, over half a century later, I still get a warm feeling and a desire for hot tea when I think of Mrs. Christie, and sitting on her porch.  She gave me the gift of a very special childhood memory.

Years later, when I was all grown up, I discovered that Mr. and Mrs. Christie were alcoholics.  I don’t know if the neighborhood adults ever felt the same way we did about Mrs. Christie, but I know it must have been a  topic for neighborhood gossip if it had been relayed to me all those years later.  I can only imagine the  friendships she missed out on, and the heartaches she must have endured .  I was told that it seemed safe to let us go down there in the morning time before they started drinking.   My grandparents were ever watchful as long as they could see us on that screen porch.  I am grateful that they let me go, and I bet Mrs. Christie was too.

As a child, I saw Mrs. Christie as a kind, friendly, and caring soul who really seem to enjoy our company and made me feel special.  I’m wondering how I would see her now with  half a century of the world changing my perspective.  I would hope that I would still see the same person and not let those other ugly emotions cloud my vision.  I hope that I would have been her friend.  I hope that I wouldn’t have joined in the neighborhood gossip.  I hope that I would be able to see the soul of Mrs. Christie if I were to see her with my adult eyes the way I did as a child.

Children tend to get it right, with brand new untarnished hearts, they have that sixth sense to see beyond the external…to see beyond what the world whispers to them.  That is a Tree Star my friends….seeing and loving others through the lens of your childhood innocence and the Kingdom of Heaven won’t be far behind.

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”   ~Matthew 19:14

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