36: A Friendly Rescue

36: A Friendly Rescue

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Just Us Girls

A Friendly Rescue

Begin challenging your own assumptions. Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in awhile, or the light won’t come in.

~Alan Alda

“I do not want to move to Maryland,” our daughter Jill said firmly, her blond hair swirling as she shook her head.

“I don’t either,” her sister Kay agreed. “We like it here in Texas. I have a job, Jill’s in college and has a job. We’ll get an apartment and live together.”

So, as empty nesters, my husband Fred and I moved to Takoma Park, Maryland, just a few minutes from Washington, D.C. A real estate agent found us a small house in a reasonably good neighborhood, close to Fred’s office and within our budget. It was a one-and-a-half story brick Cape Cod built for soldiers returning from World War II.

That house impressed nobody except me. I loved it. To me it represented a blank canvas that I could improve to my heart’s content without worrying whether what I did was the most “with it” in terms of decorating. I also reasoned that all the physical labor involved would be good therapy for a lonesome mother.

I scraped layers of paint off door casings and painted the walls and trim a light cream color. Fred and I pulled up the carpets and refinished the beautiful red oak floors. The clean smell of latex paint and sharp odor of polyurethane permeated my pores and worked as medicine against the doldrums. A small room upstairs, lined in old knotty pine paneling, endured multiple applications of sandpaper and changed from dark brown to gold.

I worked outside the house also, helping Fred dig up overgrown junipers, tearing up the ugly fence between us and the neighbors, mowing grass, and sanding and painting porch railings.

Carroll and Julie Davis, an elderly couple, lived in the house on the corner lot and were our next-door neighbors. Outgoing Carroll walked back and forth between our houses and watched my frenetic activity. I knew he kept his tiny wife informed of my progress but even the few times I caught her outside and tried to make conversation, her replies to my questions were monosyllabic and she scurried inside quickly. This was a disappointment. I missed my girls and needed a friend.

“My wife doesn’t ‘neighbor’ much,” Carroll explained. “It’s not you. She just never has warmed up to any neighbors.” Until one day when I needed to be rescued.

After I finished sanding the knotty pine walls in the upstairs bedroom, I brought up a bucket of warm water and old towels to wash the window. The window was the kind you rotated a handle to open and shut. I washed the inside, then opened the window and stepped out on the kitchen roof to wash the outside. I scrubbed with my usual enthusiasm and didn’t notice the window gradually close. Finished, I stood back to admire the clean glass and realized only a sliver of space was left between the window casing and the window. Desperately I tried to squeeze my hand through that slender opening and reach the handle. No luck. I did not want to force the window.

Finally I shrugged and gave up. I was stuck on the kitchen roof. Nuts. How idiotic could I be? The street we lived on was one short block with three houses, not counting Carroll and Julie’s house on the corner. Undeveloped parkland filled the other side of the street. The traffic consisted of the three of us householders and an occasional lost soul.

Standing on my kitchen roof I scanned the neighborhood. This was a lovely afternoon. Where were the neighbor kids riding their bikes? They often came over from the park to ask for a shovel or a rake to build up the jumping mounds on their bike trail. No young voices shouted to one another today or knocked on our door. The neighbor to the left was at work, ditto the neighbors on the other side of him. Carroll and Julie were likely home, but our kitchen was on the wrong side of our house for me to call to them.

I sat down and pondered my situation. Even if someone came along, they couldn’t walk in the house and open the window. The doors were locked. That was my husband’s doing.

“When you’re engrossed in an indoor project, anyone could just open the door and come in,” he would say. “Keep the doors locked.”

I needed a ladder.

I sat, disconsolately thinking how stupid I was and wishing a book would magically appear, when I heard the distinct sound of a dribbling basketball. I stood up and peered down the street. Sure enough, it was a preteen boy. Was this ordinary looking kid my key to freedom?

“Hey, boy,” I yelled. The kid looked around, puzzled at this voice coming from nowhere. “Up here. On the roof.” He looked up, saw me, and grinned. It’s not every day you see an old lady on a roof.

“Whatcha doing up there?” he asked.

“I’m stuck. I was washing the window and it shut. Could you go to the corner house and ask one of those people to come?”

He gazed at me for a while, grinned again and disappeared. Soon he was back, with Julie in tow.

“Is Carroll home, Julie?” I asked. “I need a ladder.”

“Carroll’s not home but I think I can carry the ladder.”

My young basketball player gave me another huge smile, picked up his ball, and went merrily on his way, no doubt thinking of the great story he could tell at dinner. Julie soon came, dragging a ladder behind her. She set it up and I climbed down.

My rescuer smiled a shy smile. “I suppose your doors are locked and the key’s in the house.”

“You supposed right.”

“I baked cookies this morning and could put the coffee pot on,” she volunteered hesitantly.

“That sounds wonderful, Julie.”

The two of us celebrated my rescue with coffee, cookies, and laughter, and for the eight years we lived in that little Cape Cod house, we kept our coffee pots hot and our conversations lively. I delighted in her friendship.

~Georgia L. Alderink

You are currently enjoying a preview of this book.

Sign up here to get a Chicken Soup for the Soul story emailed to you every day for free!

Please note: Our premium story access has been discontinued (see more info).

view counter

More stories from our partners