I Love Lucy

Next month will be the five-year anniversary since moving into our current home.  Remembering back to the months of house hunting with our realtor John makes me laugh.  We might have been one of his more frustrating couples to work with since we had inquiries into multiple locations spread around the Kansas City metro area and fickle possibilities of what we were hoping for in our first home together.  Old versus new, split level versus ranch style, garages, fireplaces, walk in closets, full renovations versus freshly done renovations, acreage versus small plots…  We made it nearly impossible for him to narrow down the possibilities.  After one missed opportunity in Grandview, one unaccepted offer in Overland Park, and one day too late offer in Brookside, we were exhausted with the search and prepared to find somewhere to rent when we gave it one last shot.

We returned to a house we had stopped at before in South Kansas City, we called it “the refrigerator house” since the stainless steel feature in the home we clearly remembered and liked.  From the outside it looked really small, as most of the houses in the area were constructed in the 50’s with a two bedroom, one bathroom layout.  This home had an addition added later to create another living space and bedroom onto the back of the house and the basement was finished off with another living space and second bathroom.  There was nothing spectacular about the house, it didn’t fulfill everything we were looking for in a home and the colors were all wrong.  The location was great, we feared wasting money on rent over building equity in a home and knew our first home wouldn’t be our forever home so we made an offer.

Shortly after moving in walls began getting painted, window treatments were hung and the house became our home – even after we had to repair the refrigerator.  We became friendly with some neighbors and other neighbors we were seemingly invisible to with no acknowledgment at all.  The first autumn in the house rolled around and I noticed a homeless woman digging in our recycling on the curb Thursday mornings before I went to work.  Peering out the window I could see her torn skirt, old shoes, an over-sized coat and a scarf covering her hair.  One morning I sadly watched her digging in the blue box at the end of our driveway and pull out an empty detergent pail, she carried it across our lawn and out of my view.  I quickly moved to another window to catch her path from another angle, and watched as she passed across the street and added the pail to gardening tools in the yard across the street.

Eventually I met my neighbor, who I initially viewed as a homeless woman, her name is Lucy.  In the past five years I have grown to love the garden growing, garbage gathering, mismatched clothes wearing, widowed friend.  She explained to me how she collects pop tabs off of the cans people put in their recycling she gives to her church and the Box Top stamps she finds to bring to her granddaughter.  Fearing the woman’s frail condition and level of activity I began putting our pop tabs in an envelope for her.

A few years ago Lucy’s doctor told her she needed to stop taking on so much; cleaning her house, keeping up her garden and roaming the street for treasures in trash was too much at her age.  Her son’s have tried to convince her to move to a retirement community, and it seemed like during times when Lucy struggled with insomnia and confusion she considered it.  Then when spring would roll around and the flowers returned to life, so did Lucy.

lucy2Having raised her family in the home, which presently has orange shag carpeting I imagine was installed about 40 years ago, she knows the neighborhood and history of previous occupants.  She meets all of the neighbors, even the ones who haven’t acknowledged us in five years.  She delivers flowers from her garden, often in reusable gems from recycling bins like bottles and plastic cups.  During certain times of the year there are daily deliveries of flowers from Lucy, sometimes a sweet smelling surprise found on the front deck or a small bouquet in her empty milk carton from the Meals on Wheels lunch.

Five years ago I never would have guessed how I would feel about my house.  I like my house, the location is great,  it feels like our home, best of all I love Lucy.  It’s wonderful having a neighbor who is happy to give and receive hugs, I feel humbled to hear “Bless you” from an older woman in tattered clothing, and I don’t mind getting pulled into conversations with the neighborhood historian.  Plus it always puts a smile on my face to get a fresh bouquet of flowers.

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India – Maintaining Sanity

This is the third post regarding my travels to West Bengal five years ago.  I am pleased to be submerging myself in photographs, writings and videos I captured while I was there as well as revisiting and viewing new literature, movies and other media related to India.  Ultimately, the country is so big, the regions vary greatly and the population is huge… my perception cannot be taken for truth.  However, I do feel an obligation to share my experience as India has influenced my life so greatly.

My last posting about India related to the traffic and while I did my best to paint the picture of chaos it is something you cannot imagine until you are in the middle of it.  Beyond the traffic there is the confusion of poverty and wealth, beauty and disgust, enlightening ideas and pure nonsense everywhere I turned, then heat – heat – heat over it all.  I was over stimulated with new sights, sounds and smells, and disturbed by contrasting values and foreign systems.

My sanity – besides having seven new friends who related to my dismay – lay in the accommodations we stayed in throughout our trip.  The Ramakrishna Mission near Gol Park was my oasis.  It was my safety and quiet from the perplexity which existed outside those walls.  The entrance on a side street took you into a courtyard where the walls became a barrier to the honking craziness.  The energy of anxiety melted into a calm entering through the gate.  The courtyard was filled with flowers and the occasional kitten with her momma.  The evening chants and bells were a peaceful reminder to slow down and take the whole experience in.  The pots planted on our first day contained sunflowers, the Kansas state flower, feeling like an welcoming home.

Our rooms were modest, two roommates sharing twin beds.  Our bathrooms had real toilets and while our showers didn’t get hot water, wouldn’t have wanted a hot shower in the heat anyways.  There were days I showered 3 times do to perspiration.  Making friends with some Australian girls we learned not all of the rooms at the RKM had air-conditioning, I was beyond thankful we did.

We ate most of our meals in the dining room at the RKM, it was all traditional Indian food with some options at every meal.  For breakfast, as one of my travel mates recently reminded me, we ate cereal flakes with warm milk and eggs cooked to order.  Our stomachs quickly grew sick of the foreign meals so we attempted to consume as much yogurt as possible to try to calm this.  The yogurt was served plain with the clear liquid, most of us added four and five spoonfuls of sugar in to make it edible to our pallets.  At dinner our plates would arrive with three or four separate piles of food items with rice and naan on the side.   The entire month I had no idea what I was consuming other than knowing it was the vegan option.  Vegetables never looked familiar and even when my instructor put names to what I was eating, I never seemed to retain the words.

The very best food from the RKM kitchen was when they offered mangoes.  The mangoes were the freshest, sweetest and most juicy mangoes I had ever tasted, even to this day.  Now I am not sure if they were that good because they are the best mangoes in the world, or if it was simply because I was so in desperate need of something sweet, slightly familiar and not tainted with Indian spices.

At risk of being called a sheltered Midwestern/American girl… I needed quiet, inviting flowers and air-conditioned evenings with occasional mango slices in my yogurt to maintain my sanity during my month in India and the Ramakrishna Mission was just that kind of place.