School starts soon, and I keep thinking about a little girl who came by last spring with her mother.
From a neighbor’s tree, I saw the woman first, and since she carried stuff in a folder, I figured her for a sales person. I had to join them. I love it when smooth talkers try to corner Mom with their pitches.
Since the neighbor had moved his pickup I'd used to reach a high branch, getting out of the tree was trickier than sneaking up on a mockingbird’s nest. And about that dangerous. By the time I reached our porch, I’d missed introductions. Real friendly, Mom offered the woman a chair while talking. “... a real sweetheart, attended there before she moved to Dallas. Do you know her?”
“Our church has grown so, one can’t possibly know everyone.” said the woman.
Right off, I was thinking this is gonna be good. The visitor had real nice fingernails—even and painted smooth. Dressed expensive, too, she looked like an older version of the all-fixed-up gals on Fox News. But she smiled from the teeth out, and I could can tell by her voice she was gonna talk down to Mom, maybe cuz about then the mailman handed Mom the Methodist newspaper.
I decide to keep score. Lady one, Mom zip. Course that wasn’t completely fair—I could tell by her face Mom didn’t know they were playing the one-up game.
A girl got out of the car and came up on the porch.
“My daughter, Desiree,” said the lady. “Say hello to Mrs. Simpson, Darling.”
By then I was sitting in my chair, and Desiree came toward me. Mom said I wasn’t the cuddly type, and could scratch.
“And they do shed, Dear,” the lady said.
I could tell the little girl was sad, so I wudda let her pat me, but she backed away. I guess Mom could tell Desiree was sad, too, cuz she paid special attention to her. Asked if the kid would like a soda—nixed by her mother as bad for teeth, and when offered ice water, the mother said they carried bottled water in a cooler.
The woman turned to business: an invitation to hear a speaker at their church. To Mom’s polite refusals, the woman threw out digs kinda saying a real Christian wouldn’t want to miss out on her offer. Free. Limited seating. She didn’t tell about the arm twisting to buy a book, a CD, and that after expecting a twenty in a collection plate.
Meanwhile, Desiree sitting in the chair by mine poked at a fancy phone. I could see tears come to her eyes, and she ran out to the grass looking at the phone like she saw a monster.
Using high-sounding words, the lady told Mom how much better Desiree is than other kids, so she didn’t get invited to a big birthday party. What? I was really surprised to hear how smart she is, cuz every time Mom asked Desiree something, her mother answered.
In a minute the woman was back to her church rattling—she scored at least 5 in the one-up game by now, and Mom acted like she didn’t notice. As if still listening, Mom got scissors and a plastic bag from her yard-stuff drawer, and dipped a paper towel in my water bowl. I followed as she stepped off the porch to the flower garden, cut two of her favorite irises, and took them over to Desiree. “Thank you for visiting us today,” Mom said.
The lady took the “leave” cue. “Tell her thank you Desiree,” she said just as the kid was about to.
“Perhaps...” Mom got the woman’s attention while Desiree ran ahead to the car, “... if Desiree were allowed to speak for herself more often, her social side might have a chance to grow."
Touchdown! As the lady walked away from us, I rubbed Mom’s leg in approval.