I wasn’t expecting a fairy godmother that afternoon. So I almost ignored the knock at my front door. I hadn’t wished on a star, rubbed a magic lamp, or even whispered a desperate prayer. I’d simply left work early and collapsed on our sofa. The knock jolted me.
Probably an insurance salesman. Or a religious fanatic.
I didn’t have the strength for either battle. I had come home because I simply could not sit another three hours at my desk. It was easy to blame the pregnancy since morning sickness lasted all day. The truth was much harder to face. A deep, dark depression had slithered around my soul and would not let go.
I had entered marriage with all the enthusiasm of a girl going to the prom. And with just about that much maturity. Being a grown-up had proven less thrilling than I expected. My husband and I moved into a honeymoon cottage on the back street of a small town. The locals called our neighborhood Rascal Flats, quite possibly in honor of some of our neighbors.
Now, a few months after our wedding day, I was pregnant, depressed, and desperate to avoid whoever was knocking at my front door. The knock sounded a second time, and a voice called out my name.
I peeked toward the front porch and caught a glimpse of skinny blue jeans and toenails painted cherry red. If I had asked for a fairy godmother, this would not have been my style. I opened the door.
Evelyn Hagar introduced herself and held out a plate of deviled eggs. She shrugged toward her own house across the street. “I saw your car pull in just now. And I thought, ‘shoot, maybe they can use up some of these eggs I cooked.’” She held the plate out to me. “I always get carried away, and I made way too many for Archie and me. They’ll just go to waste if you don’t eat them.”
I thanked her and accepted the first of many such offerings. As the year progressed, I became certain Evelyn had never lived in a fairy tale. She didn’t talk about her pain, but it was written on her face. Even when she smiled, I could see the sadness.
She bore in silence, though, the sorrows of her youth and the conflicts of adulthood. Even when her only son died in the promise of young manhood, Evelyn grieved quietly. And she kept crossing the street.
She brought the extra biscuits Archie couldn’t eat. And the roast beef she found on sale and couldn’t pass up, which was silly since the two of them would never eat a whole roast beef.
We kept playing the game all through the winter and fall. I didn’t notice the changes going on in my soul at first. They were small, like the first fluttering of life had been inside my womb. When Evelyn brought soup, I found myself wanting to wash her dish before I sent it home. When she talked sweetly about Archie, whether he deserved it or not, I appreciated my own husband more.
Slowly, I found myself coming out of the darkness. And then, our daughter, Felicity, was born. She was sweetness and light itself. My depression lifted the minute we carried her home. Now I had a new obsession. Instead of fretting all day about how sick I felt, I sat in the rocking chair and sang lullabies. I left the dirty dishes in the sink so I could watch her sleep or see her smile. And, I ignored my husband even more.
Felicity was three months old when Evelyn showed up on my porch one morning in her mini skirt and halter top with bracelets jangling on her wrists and a basket in her weathered hands.
“I need to run down to the Laundrymat and wash a few things,” she said, “but I don’t have enough to make a full load of whites. I hate to waste a quarter on half a load. Don’t you have some diapers I could do?”
I stared at Evelyn. She was a grandmother with troubles enough to fill several baskets. Yet, here she stood, trying to make me believe I would do her a favor it I dumped all my soggy diapers in with her half load of underwear.
Suddenly, the spell was broken, and something shifted inside of me. I think it was my own emotions stepping aside to make room for someone else’s needs.
Evelyn washed my diapers that day and a few other days besides. She did so many acts of kindness, in fact, that I’ve lost track of some of the details. But, I have never forgotten.
It has been more than forty years since she delivered that first plate of eggs. I’ve never been able to pull off her glamorous style, and I’ve allowed my sorrows to grow audible many times. But, I’ve also enjoyed a great marriage and helped raised a brood of remarkable kids. Best of all, I have occasionally managed to play fairy godmother for someone else. I owe that part to Evelyn Hagar and the year we shared a street.
Rest in Peace, my friend.