She spent the days at home with her small children. Some days were simply delightful. She played with them, read to them, and cuddled with them under the warm blanket. Some days were difficult and exhausting when nothing seemed to go right.
Remnants of breakfast were still on the floor under the high chair. Jelly was stuck in the two-year-old’s hair. As the sun shone through the glass storm door, she saw little handprints and nose prints. Forehead marks were visible where her children pressed upon the glass.
She knew each print and who put them there. She sighed and felt like she would never catch up. Just when she got a little bit ahead, a diaper needed to be changed. Just when she could take a little break, the baby needed to be fed and a favorite toy needed to be found.
She finally sat down for a few minutes rest. She looked through the smeary glass door at the house across the street. Manicured lawn, freshly painted door, and a newly black-topped driveway met her gaze.
The house across the street had clean windows!
The clean windows did it! “I bet she never has fingerprints on her glass door,” she thought to herself. “I know her kitchen floor is immaculate, without a crumb to be found anywhere.” “She probably never gets behind in her work,” she grumbled, as her mood grew more sour.
She didn’t even know her neighbor except when they waved from across the street.
She never made brownies to take over when her neighbor moved in. There was always something else that needed to be done. She should invite her over one of these days.
She looked around her house, trying to see it through her neighbor’s eyes. She was embarrassed. It was a particularly hectic day. It was a day when the beds were not made and the children were still in their pajamas.
Someone knocked at her front door. She could see through the sidelights that it was her neighbor from across the street. She had a piece of mail in her hand. It must have been delivered to her house by accident. “Would you like to come in?” She asked her neighbor, who she was meeting for the first time.
“I would love to!” Her neighbor answered coming in as she held the door for her. She stepped on a plastic toy and hurt her foot. She could feel the tears so close and the knot in the back of her throat getting tighter.
The two-year-old had sticky jelly fingers and was grabbing for her neighbor’s hand.
There was a favorite doll to be shown. The little one led the way. She didn’t want to let go of her new friend’s hand; the jelly would make sure of that!
Her neighbor cuddled the doll so sweetly, expertly burping the elusive gas bubble. “I’m sorry for the mess; it has been a busy morning,” she said looking at the chaos around her.
“Can I make you some tea?” She asked, secretly hoping her neighbor would refuse. “I would love some. Thank you,” her neighbor answered.
She watched her neighbor play with her little child. She put the baby on her hip and filled the tea kettle with water from the spigot.
Her child took to her neighbor easily. Her child talked in words that only she could understand.
If her neighbor didn’t understand toddler-speak, you would never have guessed.
“An expert with children, too!” she said to herself in a sarcastic tone. The tea kettle whistled and jolted her out of her sour mood. She opened one of the cabinets to get some mugs for their tea.
She poured the tea into mismatched mugs. One mug had a chip on the handle. Nothing was freshly baked. She did have graham crackers, which she served with some jelly.
They sat for a while in silence. Finally, her neighbor spoke first. “I have wanted to invite you over.”
"Forgive me for not doing that before now.”
“I see you all the time from across the street,” the neighbor continued. “I watch you when you take a walk around the block.” “I see how great you are with your children.” “They are blessed to have you as their Mama,” she added with a tinge of sadness in her voice.
“Thank you...” she said weakly.
“I should have had you...”
“Made you brownies...” “But there never seems...”
“To be enough time?” her neighbor said as she finished her sentence. She shook her head in agreement. The sun was shining through the glass door. She cringed at the visible dirt she saw there and hoped her neighbor wouldn’t notice.
In addition to the finger prints, there were lines drawn by a sticky finger.
The lines went right down the glass. She got up as if by impulse. She wiped the door with her napkin.
“Oh, don’t do that,” her neighbor said. “It’s lovely!” “I never have prints on my front door,” she said, as her voice cracked just a bit. “I know” she grumbled in her mind, remembering the perfect house across the street.
“We could never have children...” she began as her voice trailed off.
“We always wanted them.” “We just never could.” “I would give anything for some handprints on my door.”
“Do you want another cup of tea?” She asked her neighbor. She took her mug and realized she had mistakenly given her the one with the chip on the handle.
“We can talk and get to know each other better, “ she said and meant it with her whole heart.
She poured tea into the mug with the chip on the handle; fine porcelain never looked so good!