Blessings in an Ordinary Day
My eighty-two year old neighbor came to visit with me today. She appeared at my back door at a time when I was trying to juggle three tasks at one time; preparing breakfast, refilling my mother's medicine tray, and brewing coffee, or as my family often reminds me, my life blood. At first I felt a pang of anxiety because I was so busy and didn't want to have a visit with anyone but then she held out a gift for me and I not only smiled, I stopped to take two Tupperware containers from her hands.
Without realizing what I had done at just that moment, I know now that I made a split-second decision that felt right to me. It was the right decision to make. By stopping to smile at my neighbor and thank her for making my day a bit brighter we had both received a gift. She needed the gifts of attention and friendship this morning while the gift I needed was a reminder to stop and smell the roses, or in this case, the coffee.
The Tupperware containers contained freshly ground coffee and memories of a different era in my life. Sally, my neighbor, asked, "Dianna, do you remember where I got that Tupperware? You were just a strip of a girl and you had a party with this stuff. It was the first time I ever went to a party to buy plastic containers but I sure did have a good time. Now I come over here for coffee about every day so I figured I would bring you some coffee for brewing and get you to take a break long enough to drink a cup with me."
I slathered heart-healthy spread on the butter I took from the toaster, added milk to two bowls of shredded wheat, and took fresh strawberry jam from the refrigerator. My mother and Sally took seats at the dining room table and I poured three cups of coffee, one for each of us. While the two older women enjoyed cereal and toast, I checked out the Tupperware.
"Sally, how in the world did you remember where you got this Tupperware?" I asked.
"Well, Child, lift up the lid. You'll see. I always figured on giving it back to you some day and today seemed like a good day to do it."
I lifted the dark blue lid of one of the containers and saw that my name had been neatly etched into the plastic along with a date, July, 1974. My thoughts started to drift back to my teenage years. I always seemed to be finding ways to make a few dollars back then. One year I wore the rubber right off of my tennis shoes by walking door to door selling greeting cards. Another time I sold a tabloid like newspaper, "The Grit", door to door for a few months. I sold raffle tickets, I cleaned windows, I washed cars, and I groomed pets, but my biggest money maker had turned out to be selling Tupperware.
My mother and most of the women in this community were old fashioned stay at home wives. The only parties they attended were baby showers, bridal showers, and family occasions or events held at church. Even those were rare because I grew up in a coal mining camp where the men worked swing shifts and dads were not always available to watch the children while a woman went anywhere alone. Babysitters, while not unheard of at that time, were not in high demand in this area. The point is that these "parties" could be held in the middle of the afternoon or in the early evening and they were perfectly acceptable. The Tupperware was also an item that could be used by women of all ages.
"Dianna," Sally said, jolting me out of my stroll down memory lane. "Do you remember trying to teach us all how to burp those containers?" Sally laughed so hard at the end of this question that coffee spewed from her nostrils. "I think it was harder than burping a baby! I also think you learned to make sure the container was empty when you did that demonstration!"
Have I mentioned that Jell-O was also wildly popular as a dessert in the 1970's? I can still see the look on the widow Brown's face as bright red Jell-O seemed to jump from a little square Tupperware container and land right at the top of her ample bosom before beginning a slow decline through the mounds of flesh and onward to the top of her girdle. She was jiggling more than the Jell-O as she worked to unfasten the top buttons of her dress to remove the Jell-O.
"Oh, I remember that very well, Sally," I said with a smile.
"Child, you might not have known it, but every one of the women that came to your parties left there smiling and just praying you would have another party like that. We all went home thinking about the plastic junk we had bought to add to our saved up butter bowls and jelly glasses in the cabinets. We didn't really need that junk, we bought it to help you and we bought it to get together and save our sanity. You were funny, friendly, and fed us all finger foods we didn't have to fix ourselves. You wouldn't want to have another one of those parties would you? I'd buy some more of that Tupperware and you could send it to your daughter!" Sally's face was full of expression and happiness. My mother's face was full of need for me to refill her coffee cup.
I realized at that very moment how overwhelmed I sometimes feel by the frustrations of trying to be everything to everyone in my life. There are many moments when I ponder on the dreams that seem to have evaporated and my days that seem to have stalled in a rigid zone of chores and responsibility. What happened to that teenager who was so full of energy, determination, and ingenuity? Well, I think that young girl went through many changes of seasons and scenery and to be honest with myself, they were not all bad.
I've experienced people and places I never dared to dream about and I am still tapping into the potential I never even knew I possessed. I have learned and I have grown. I have been able to see past the rain falling around me to see the rainbow developing after the storm. I have taken the moments from my life and turned them into adventures I can retell and memories I can use to warm my soul during a cold period in time. That teenager seeking to make a fortune and see the world became a woman who brings her own unique gift to this world every day in some small way.
My mother started to bang her spoon against her empty cereal bowl and Sally gently placed her hand on one of my mother's hands. My mother seemed to calm down and I saw a tear trickle down Sally's face. "Would either of you ladies like another cup of coffee or some more toast?" I asked.
Sally stood and said, "Well, I'd better be heading home. My phone might be ringing off the hook you know. Every now and again one of my children remembers that they have a mother.” Her facial expression saddened and then she looked at me before adding, "Dianna, you have no idea of how blessed you are to have such a close family. You're a blessing to your friends and family every day."
I felt a tear trickle down my cheek as Sally walked past me. We aren't alone in this world. Many people face the same struggles and we all need a human touch of kindness. I'm pretty sure that I often search for the wrong blessings and overlook the blessings I'm given in an ordinary day. Sally is one of those blessings.
I guess Tupperware might have been designed to keep food fresh but for me it preserved memories, friendship, and a reminder that miracles happen when you least expect them. I think I need to purchase some new Tupperware very soon.
© Dianna Doles-Petry