Esther was enjoying the early morning air as she sipped away on her second cup of coffee. Artie had left for town right after breakfast. Esther was blessed with a long lasting and companionable marriage to Artie and never a day went by that she didn’t look to the heavens and offer up words of gratitude for this good fortune that had become her life.. After Artie drove off, Es, (Artie’s pet name for Esther) washed and dried the dishes and then poured herself a second cup of coffee before she came out to relax a bit on their front porch. She was rocking slowly, forth and back in her old well worn rocker, observing the occasional car driving by. She always tried to imagine where they might be going. Her house and front porch faced the road where she could sit and watch humanity go by in cars, on bicycles or on foot. Her house was built in a little hill top community and the road that passed her house was a narrow country road that people traveled to go to various destination points. Artie and Esther’s home was small and simply built, but the front porch was spacious. It was deeply set, and ran the full length of the house. Two square, evenly spaced pillars stood proudly supporting a steeply pitched roof. The ceiling was very high and painted a shiny soft gray color. A long time ago, on one end of the porch, Artie had hung a wide wicker swing as an Anniversary present to Es. In the evenings they would often both sit on this swing, side by side, with Artie’s arm resting lightly around her shoulders. They would swing in a comfortable silence, feeling the warmth of the others body and even a heartbeat, ever so faint. Es loved old time church hymns, so once in a while she would invite Artie to sing along with her as she searched her memory for the words of remembered hymns. People often asked her which ones were her favorite, but to name only one would be similar to saying you loved one of your children more than the others. Each hymn had its own beautiful sound, qualities and words. Truth be told, she loved them all.
Artie had built a 4 foot high half wall that surrounded the porch and wrapped to either side of the front steps. This was nice because it still gave them a view while it protected them from those cold breezes that often came around in the north country. Esther loved flowers so she planted two long rectangular containers with red trailing geraniums and placed them on each side wall, to “decorate the view”, she said.
Her house was painted white and its roof was shingled in a shade of dark green. Her window frames and flower boxes had been painted the same green to match the roof, and in these she placed more red geraniums with asparagus fern that flowed out as it tumbled down the front of the boxes. When people drove by, they often slowed down a bit so they could take in the beauty of their property, for not only were the flowers in window boxes and on the half porch walls, there were flowers growing all over their property in deeply carved, well tended gardens. All that color adorning the white of the house and the green of the lush yard created a lovely scene. One person commented that to wander through Artie and Esther’s property was like turning the pages of a story book. Es and Artie both took great pride that they had managed to create something that other people could enjoy.
Esther was feeling out of sorts this morning. She was pondering her age and was reflecting on the speed in which the years of her life had been passing by. Her life had been a satisfying one, as lives go. She married Artie when she was only 23. They raised three children, who were now long gone into the world into lives of their own. She and Artie had accomplished all they had set out to do. They were not rich, nor had they ever expected they would be, but they were “comfortable” as long as they continued to live as they always had. No forays to Europe for her and Artie, but she really didn’t care about that sort of thing anyway.
She had lived her entire life in this small town. She was born and raised here, met Artie when she was 21, married him two years later and gave birth to her three children two years apart, and now here she was, rocking away in an old chair knowing she was considered an elderly woman. She didn’t FEEL like an elderly woman! Esther’s spirit was actually ageless. Her spirit was any age on any given day. Her memory served as a time capsule where in a fraction of a second, she could travel back to the girl she was at aged 6 or 9 or 19 or 30! It was amazing how the senses created this ability for time travel. The mind has an uncanny ability to take in and store information about every single second of your life where you can go in and look for a particular memory and relive it all over again.
As an example, just now, a long forgotten memory of the scent of fresh bread coming out of the oven wove throughout her mind. Earlier this morning she had baked some cinnamon rolls for Artie and the scent was lingering and was discernible even outside on the porch. The scent evoked memories of her mother and grandmother in the kitchen of her childhood chatting away as they kneaded and rolled dough into loaves of bread and small buns for sandwiches. Esther remembered how she and her sister would often plead and plead for Grandma and Mom to give them some dough to work, and how they kept on with their pleading until Grandma finally relented. Grandma would give each of them a lump of dough to make their own individual baked treats and told them that these were for them to make and eat. No waste was allowed in any home in those days. Esther and her sister eagerly nodded their heads in agreement with emphatic promises that they would, indeed, eat them! They would spread butter on the top and then sprinkle cinnamon and sugar before putting them into the oven. Once baked, they would come out hot from the oven, brown and crisp and sugary. A tastier treat had yet to be discovered.
This morning, she was also thinking about her Granddaughters. Not long after Esther’s 65th birthday, her two granddaughters came to spend the night. They loved her Swedish meatballs and so she spent the day preparing a nice dinner knowing how happy they would be when they ran up the steps to the kitchen taking in the aroma of their favorite meal waiting for them. They loved Es and the two of them always enjoyed visiting with her because they knew how much she loved them. They were her only grandchildren.
After their dinner, they all washed and dried the dishes before they went outside to sit on the porch. Grandpa retired to his big chair to read the paper so all the girls could have their time. He knew how much his “Es” prized these times with her Grand girls. Once outside, Esther sat rocking in her chair while the girls were swinging in the old porch swing.
Elizabeth, the older girl (who was 11) turned to her and asked “What does it feel like to be 65, Grandma?”
Kate (who was 8) said with big, blinking eyes, “Yeah, Grandma…..that sounds like a lot of birthdays to me!”
Esther looked over at them and gave them a big smile. She said, “Well, I suppose when you are your age, 65 seems like it is a LONG way down the road, and in some ways it is. But, to me, looking back, it went by like this” as she snapped her fingers.
Es was pondering that conversation this morning and contemplating the fact that life does, indeed, fly by and isn’t it too bad that we don’t realize the brevity of it before it is almost over? She wondered why it was in God’s design to create eternal spirits inside of perishable bodies with an end date written in a heavenly book. Old? What is old anyway? Old just doesn’t describe the spirit that lives inside the body. One could look at a person who is the pinnacle of youth and beauty not knowing that inside resides an old soul. Or, one could look at an old, bent, wrinkled person not realizing that inside was a very young soul.
Who invented the concept of time anyway? They say there are no clocks in heaven. It has been said that time does not exist there. That sounded pretty good to Esther. The idea of living large in heaven with no end date was wonderful. How lovely to see Mom and Grandma again….along with many other family and friends.
Well, Esther’s coffee cup was now empty. The sun was higher in the sky than it had been when when she first came out to rest a bit. She had laundry to sort, beds to make, and a whole list of chores waiting for her. Artie was due back soon, so she better get busy or he would comment yet again on her “day dreaming ways”. She got up off the rocker and pulled open the screen door to enter the house. With a snap it closed and Es was on to her day.