I’ve intended to write this particular Fifth Wednesday Special since the very beginning of October. The content has changed, drastically, as the month has progressed, and as many incidents have dropped from fragile memory, but the theme of blooms amid thorns has remained constant. October, the entire month, has been a bad patch of life for me. Yet, there have also been wondrous blooms among the thorns. It is those blooms that I want to write about now, and remember, forever.

There were indeed blooms among thorns from the very first of the month, but mid-month is today’s starting point. On the Friday before Bridge Festival, my Tahoe suddenly became very balky. Somehow, I got it to the repair shop. A small bloom amid thorns. The problem was not one of the two likely ones. In fact, it was several problems. The repair cost would be way in excess of my ability to pay when the repairs were done. It would be months before I had that much money available. The only option I saw was to leave my Tahoe there, unrepaired, for months. Kyle offered to repair it now, and I could pay what I could when I could. No specific terms. Just two people who have known each other for years trusting each other. I paid what I could  the day the repairs were done, as soon as the key was given back to me. Blooms among thorns. I also thought of Kyle when he was a mere child. There was never a time when he was not nice to Mom or me. Mom especially delighted to see him. A very special memory came to mind. Mom and Kyle were both at the local hospital, for outpatient surgery. Kyle’s was first. As he recovered from the anesthetic, he was a joyous ball of energy, and he paid special attention to my mother. He gave her a real lift that day.

The Friday before Festival, I found in a tub, at a garage sale, something I had been wanting for 20 some years, but could never afford. Expecting the same result, I still asked the price of the seller. To my amazement, he quoted a ridiculously low price for the whole tubful of items, and not individually. When I gladly accepted, and thanked him for the low price, he offered two reasons for the low price. As for me, I think that Gary’s incredibly low price had more to do with our being neighborly neighbors, and with some kind, neighborly things I and he had done for each other very recently. With the tub in my possession, I emptied it. It did indeed have a slew of covered bridge plates. Moreover, there were all seven plates, and duplicates and duplicates of some. I had, finally, my very own set of seven. That same day, at my own garage sale, I sold a partial set of five, recouping (and more) my investment. I sold others, too. I still have some individual plates to sell. Blooms, big time, among the thorns of that day, plus a special memory of a good neighbor. 

On Friday night, I was exhausted from holding my own sale. The weather was rather iffy. Some of the things I had taken outside would not fare well in frost or dew, and would be ruined in rain or snow. Well, I would take in what I could. As I started that task, Jack, my tenant where I was holding the sale, came along to help, and help, and help. Jack has been like that, repeatedly. He’s just that kind of person. He is also thankful for the good things I’ve done for him, while he discounts as minor his own many kindnesses to me.

During that same day, I noticed new neighbors arriving at the house across the alley. I went over, and we had a very good, but short, conversation. Of course I also invited them over to my garage sale. Oh, by the way, did I have any lamps? Yes, come over and take a look. I gathered up and took outside every lamp I had. They came over. I made an offer they couldn’t refuse — two free lamps for my new neighbors. They accepted gratefully. They also bought some other things. Best of all, some of them came across the alley as I closed, to help Jack and me put fragile items into the garage. When we were done with that task, I invited them and Jack to come back the next day, and take, at no cost, what they wanted. I’ve had the pleasure of every person taking me up on that offer, and being exceptionally reasonable in what they took to boot. Jack and they provided me with some very good blooms among the thorns.

I was back at the garage by 7 a.m., on Festival Saturday. An acquaintance had offered to be there at 7:30, to run my sale for me, so I could attend part of Festival 50. There was indeed one, and only one, portion of Festival that I very much wanted to see. Come 8 a.m., he hadn’t arrived yet. Jack came out of the house to help, and we were working so hard, taking things out again, that I forgot to keep track of time. When I looked at my watch, it was 9:26. Blinking back my tears (the 9 a.m. event was over), I continued with our task. During the day, I made sure to take inside anything that needed inside protection overnight. Jack had again, that morning and during the day, provided a great deal of help.

On Sunday, I was quietly repacking stuff and starting to take things back in, between customers, by 2 p.m. Promptly at 6 p.m. a friend, Shirley, arrived, with June, and with this announcement, “We’re your closing crew.” What a great crew Jack, Shirley, and June, with my help, made. We got everything important in before dark. When we were done, Shirley, in her typically good, but blunt, way, commented, “We kicked ass, didn’t we?” I fully agreed, and I made sure that each left with an item or items they wanted. In the past, Shirley has also seen ways in which I’ve needed help, and she has provided it.

Let’s skip forward, now, two weeks. I had another sale. On Saturday, some very late customers kept me from putting stuff away, although I had started that task at 2 p.m., again. I was worn out, and had to leave most things outside until Sunday. After church, I was still so tired I had to nap. I arrived at the garage, two blocks away, to find Jack and several other people gleefully going through the outside merchandise, at 2:15 p.m. Soon, one of them asked how much I would take for everything. We settled on a price, a low price, but one I could accept. She was very, very happy, and quickly returned with the money. Now, all she had to do was go get a trailer for hauling her merchandise. Jack, Michael (a friend of Jack’s), and I stared the repacking. Then we finished it. It was dark, and no buyer with a trailer. We waited. The trailer arrived, with an energetic crew, mostly or all from her extended family. It was a delight to hear their loud noise and joshing, and to see her items disappear, in only three trips, into the trailer and vehicles. It was family working and having fun together. That, as well as Tootie’s purchase, gave me some very special blooms that night.

During the work, I asked if anyone wanted some Halloween decorations. To my surprise, I had several takers. We went into the garage. Soon every decoration had disappeared. I hadn’t anticipated that, but their enthusiam was contagious. I’m so glad that my simple offer provided so much pleasure.

Shifting back almost two weeks, Linda Smith, recipient of this years Historic Preservation Award, greeted me warmly in the library. I gave her my most abject apology for missing her 9 a.m. Saturday ceremony. She quickly put me at ease. Then she added thanks to me for being such a good teacher to her over the years we have known each other. That small comment made my day. It alone would have made the entire month a treasure.

I haven’t even gotten to the real reason that Octobers are such a hard patch of life for me now. And there’s no need to do that, at least now. Perhaps, just perhaps, I’ve said enough, though, to help you, my readers, see better the blooms amid thorns of your own life, now and as you face future hard patches of life. THANK YOU, as well, for the many blooms you have given me over the years as you talk with me about Very Long Ago.