We've had Steve (our vintage camper) parked behind our townhouse for the past few days, getting him ready for our first overnight outing; yesterday one of our neighbors who lives behind us wandered over and asked if she could take a look inside. Of course we said yes.
We've known OF these neighbors for the past two years we've lived here, met them, met their kids, met their dog, and forgotten their names (except the dog) over and over and over. Enough times that it was embarrassing to keep asking. But I did. This time I started the conversation by being honest, saying 'I am so sorry, but I cannot remember your name', and she smiled the biggest smile and said, 'it's Katie'.
This time I made a mental note. I immediately thought of Katy Perry, who Katie looks nothing like, or is nothing like, but at least I could stick it to something. Then we climbed up into Steve - me, Katie and her three children, two preschoolers and their newest addition, nestled up against his mama.
Steve is old in camper life, being built in 1989, so things are a bit rusty here and there, the carpets are beyond worn, and the upholstery is a lovely shade of mauve that went by the wayside a good twenty years ago. If he was ever cool back then, he sure isn't now. What he is, though, is stout and well-built and we felt he had some more good years in him if he was just given some TLC. In spite of his fading paint job and old lady decor, we think he's perfect for venturing out into the beautiful country of northern Idaho, Montana, and Washington, where we can wear the same sweatshirts for two days, then turn them inside out for another two, eat crockpot meals or grill burgers over a fire, and watch old movies checked out from the library at night, while listening to the sound of nothing else around us. We love Steve.
Katie stepped inside and said, 'oh my, this is great! It's so nice!' Megan and Finn immediately started climbing over everything, opening cupboards, looking in the fridge and the highlight - the bathroom. Within minutes the four year old boy was jumping on the beds, and like Tigger, the more he bounced, the bouncier he became. We sat on the sofa benches and talked, about babies and life and living in the PNW and church and stuff, and as she talked, I listened - really listened, and as she spoke the names of her family, I tucked them away deep enough they'd stick this time. Rob, Katie, Megan, Finn and Quincy and the recently departed dog, Toby.
Speaking of Toby, who was a Shih Tzu like our Miss Lily, Megan asked where she was. I suggested we open the door from the garage into the kitchen and call Miss Lily, and as soon as we did, there she was, waiting. Finn, who has a strong dose of curiosity, which his mother refers to as 'spy', bolted out of Steve and toward the kitchen door, and I asked, 'would you like to come inside my house?' Megan and Finn's faces lit up as they shouted, Yes! They would!
There was something so heartwarming about Katie just letting them be kids, curious about the world all around them, instead of apologizing for behavior that was in all ways appropriate for being four and six, and saying they had to leave. Instead, Katie just smiled and followed us all into our little home.
With no time to prepare, to tidy up, knowing we had papers scattered about, stuff lying around, we headed into the living room where Katie made herself completely at home, plopping down on the floor with Quincy in her arms; the little ones started scurrying about, checking things out, all the while calling out 'cool!' as they stuck their heads in rooms and closets. As we all sat and talked more, Finn asked if he could go upstairs and take a look around. I told him, 'yes, you may look anywhere you like except the bathroom where Papa is taking a shower, so don't open that door or Papa will scream.' Off they went, checking things out, as we sat and talked. Then it was back downstairs, where they checked out our pantry - more cries of 'cool!', then our movie collection. Finn grabbed one - Chitty Chitty Bang Bang - and I asked if they'd ever seen it. No, they hadn't. Would they like to borrow it? Yes! And when they were done, they could bring it back and we'd lend them another one. Megan's eyes grew wide when I told her we had Frozen on DVD and she was welcome to borrow it.
All this impromptu visiting went on for a good hour, and pretty much every single inch of our home was checked out as it really is. Tidy enough with the stuff of life scattered here and there. By the time they made their trek back across the driveways, their home, we were friends, friends who know each others' names, and a bit more about each other. Friends who made plans for this Christmas, to come bake cookies with some of our grandkids who live here, and we'd watch a Christmas movie together. That would be fun!
To know and be known, which it seems to me is becoming more and more rare these days - it takes connecting, being real, taking off any pretense that life or campers or houses are perfect, but that's when the real beauty of life can begin. Thanks to Katie and Megan and Finn and Quincy, we did a bit of that today. I wonder what our lives would be like, if we were forced more often, to open up our doors, let the world see us as we really are? See our messes and imperfections and the fact that none of us is really that cool? Just a bunch of humans wanting to feel free to be ourselves, surrounded by others who see the beauty in imperfections, theirs and ours.