Whipping Cream. Cola. Whipping Cream. Cola.
When I enter a grocery store without a list, I mentally repeat what I need so I don’t forget before leaving. One item was in dairy, and the other would be found in the pop section, so I took off in that direction. The next thing I knew, I was reading labels on brownie packages, crumb cakes and cookies. How had I gotten to the bakery department? When did I take a detour to salivate over all the baked goods?
This phenomena is similar to when you get in your car and drive to a destination and you have no clue how you got there. Your mind is on autopilot and without much effort, you find yourself where you wanted to be. However, in this case, I was not where I had intended to go. As if waking up from a short term case of amnesia I thought,
What am I doing? It’s still January! Why am I clutching desserts which I swore off just a few short weeks ago? This usually doesn’t happen at least until February!
I put back the forbidden fruit pie and my fingers brushed up against a large circular container of cookies. In that brief second, I was taken back to a time in my life when survival seemed to be a struggle.
I was looking over a math problem with one of my girls when I heard the familiar beep of his horn. A couple honks to indicate that I needed to open the garage door. This was a ritual on Friday afternoons. As a volunteer at the local food shelf, he faithfully helped hand out items to those who found themselves in tough financial situations Often, he would make trips to various stores to pick up extra boxes and food items including baked goods that were nearing the end of their shelf life. At the end of his shift, he was allowed to take what he wanted, especially those things that probably wouldn’t survive the weekend. With me and my daughters in mind, he would pick up an assortment of products that he thought would help alleviate the hardship.
This was in the wake of my divorce when life was uncertain and my worries were at an all time high. I was swimming in new waters as a single mother hanging on to God as a life preserver and wondering if I would ever see a semblance of normal again.
Every day I had the nagging thought that I was not going to make it. I don’t know exactly what I thought that meant, but I constantly was anxious about not being a good mother, falling short on my bills and a host of other tragedies I imagined would befall me. I slept in small amounts and at times ate next to nothing just to make sure my children had enough. The dark circles under my eyes gave away my inner turmoil, and falling asleep the minute I sat down also was a clue to those around me that I was exhausted mentally, physically and spiritually.
That particular Friday when I got out of bed for the day, I kept thinking about flowers and how much I missed having a fresh bunch of them displayed on the dining room table. I had never gotten many of them except the occasional birthday or Valentine’s bouquet, but when I did, I absolutely cherished them. I would drag out the best vase I could find and fuss over them for days trying to make them last forever. When I had to throw them away, it felt like I had attended a funeral, and I knew it would probably be a long time before I would see any again.
It was beyond me why I was thinking about flowers that day. There wasn’t any extra money lying around to cover the cost. And I never had been in the habit of purchasing any for myself. I guess I was under the impression that in order to have them, they had to be given to me on a special occasion.
Despite those beliefs, I kept seeing images of roses as clear as if they were already in my home, and I recalled how they smelled fresh out of the package. While walking through the living room, I thought,
“I really wish I had some flowers.”
I put the idea out of my mind as I became preoccupied with school work with the girls until I heard the familiar sound of his horn. I walked over and hit the button and heard the chugging sound of the door going up.
Before I could get my shoes on, he was already at the door handing me bags of fruit and other packages.
“Not a whole lot there today,” he said with a shake of his head.
“That’s okay,” I said as I took what he had brought. “Is there more? Do I need to come out and get anything?”
“No. I can get it. The shelves were kind of bare today.”
I began unpacking everything on the counter and pulled the garbage can over. This was part of the sorting process. Most of the food was on its last leg of freshness so I often had to discard moldy pieces of fruit, meat or cheese. And even when I thought what I kept was okay, often the next day I would have to throw more as it had succumbed to death overnight.
The two girls came into the kitchen to see what treasures their grandpa had found. Organic blue tortilla chips for salsa were usually fresh, and sometimes a welcome vegetable tray would somehow manage to stay unshriveled. They always found something to snack on as they watched me put things in the garbage and some into the refrigerator.
As I separated the good from the bad and ugly, the one staple that was never stale were the cookies that had been donated. The food shelf staff were told to give away more of the nutritious items to families versus baked goods, so there was always an abundance of them left over. The stores had to get rid of them a few days before expiration and the agreement was that whatever was donated had to be taken.
So it was no surprise to come across a gigantic cookie tray in the pile. I took half of its contents and put them into a freezer bag to ward off impeding doom and the other half were left to sit on the black plastic tray under the clear dome lid. As I was putting the cover back on, the door opened. The sound of crunching cellophane made me glance up. In each hand he was holding a bouquet of flowers.
“These were donated and no one wanted them. Would you? I saved one for your mom too. I tried to pick out the ones that looked the best. These look pretty good.”
I walked over to him and peered into the bags. Both bouquets were roses that were surrounded by green foliage and white baby’s breath.
“They had flowers at the food shelf? Why?”
“I don’t know. They were donated to be given away.”
I took both bags happily, but I found myself perplexed.
I was having trouble deciding whether I had said a true prayer for a bouquet of flowers or if my visions of them beforehand were God’s way of letting me know I was going to get a delivery later. I had not been specific about the amount that I wanted, and in true form to how it goes with the divine, I was given two bouquets when one would have thrilled me to pieces.
I washed my crystal vase and combined the two into a bright array that made me smile every time I walked past them. It made me feel like I wasn’t struggling and that money wasn’t so tight. The impact of that day stayed with me and confirmed a passage that says: “Your Father knows what you need even before you ask..”
The roses and their fragrance were a constant reminder that I was not alone in my circumstances. I found strength in the idea that a pair of listening ears, caring eyes, and strong hands were always at the ready to help right on time when my faith was stretched to the limit. This small gesture was an enormous uplift and boost to my wavering confidence.
My circumstances have gotten a lot better since then. But, I will never forget that I was the recipient of something that was heaven scent.