This is how I first saw Nan–bent over and busy. I only knew her as the blonde head among blossoms, clipping and trimming, garden debris flying behind her.
For three years, I walked our dog Maria in silence past her house. So I was startled one morning when she emerged from her garage as I turned down the alley. Face to face for the first time, I told her how much I admired her flowers. She thanked me. We both moved on.
Once our parallel lines intersected, however, we kept colliding on the sidewalk. We chatted. She invited me over for coffee.
I told her what a talent it was to grow lovely flowers. She said it was luck and persistence. “You try something here and watch. If it doesn’t grow, you dig it up and move it elsewhere,” she said.
Nan told me what a talent it was to write stories. I said it was luck and persistence. “You try this and that with a character, and if it doesn’t work, you move it elsewhere,” I said.
Out of nowhere, we became friends. Sometimes it happens like that. You wonder why you ever hesitated. In short order, as our stories unfolded, I understood how similar our lives were thematically. There was endless comfort in that. But not for long.
When we put our house on the market this spring, our agent brought in a professional stager who, in that Martha Stewart way, wanted our household turned perfectly inside out. Streamlined and gleaming. All colors coordinated.
“We have to add pops of red outside to attract buyers,” I wailed to Nan, who understood by now that I had no talent for landscaping. “I’ll pick you up in the morning,” she offered. For an hour, she led me down the greenhouse aisles, holding up pots of this and that, asking if I wanted something with more yellow. Or something that trailed. Or something fluffier. At the end, she grabbed tiny white pinprick blooms to add something soft and airy “to set off the red in the geraniums and begonias.”
She wasn’t singing “Bippity-Boppity-Boo,” but I felt the transforming breeze from her wand.
Because I had another real estate brushfire to extinguish across town, she promised to show up the next morning with tools and potting soil to plant everything so we could make the photographer’s deadline. And she did. I returned home to brilliant reds in all the right places.
The house sold in a day. Now I have to leave Nan.
Here’s what I want you to know about angels. They are not always vertical travelers who sail down on golden rays, as we’re led to believe. They can exist on the same horizontal line we travel, bent over among the lilies, waiting to be noticed.
Nan’s power was more than those artfully arranged red flowers in our yard. Because of her, I was no longer a stranger in my neighborhood. Someone knew me. Someone watched for me.
Being recognized is a blessing.
I simply had to summon the courage to offer a compliment. Because even angels need kindness.
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