I fell in love yesterday unexpectedly, totally and more than I thought this old heart could hold. This is how it happened. A small group of happy Baptists handed out bright red bi-lingual fliers on Friday for Free Clothes in the Roman Catholic parking lot next to my house. In thirty years all I've ever seen are the saints and sinners attending Mass, weddings, funerals, the soccer boys' daily games, an occasional drug deal or 3am drunken fight.
Saturday 9-12, the Baptists are setting up tables and racks of clothes, coats and shoes, organized by signs: Ladies, Men, Children. I head over, a bit unsteady still, to tell them on a sunny Saturday it's a wonderful use of the parking lot, but as I step from my driveway's end to where they are gathered is like I've been transported to a foreign country, as Hispanic women, children, later the men, young girls on cell phones are laughing and holding up to the light a blue blouse, a yellow shawl, a print dress, speaking Spanish like a lilting lullaby.
Feeling non-existent, I've become a white ghost moving among them. I smell Dunkin' Donuts coffee and dozens of donuts, also FREE. The happy Baptists can see me, handing me brochures for Vacation Bible School and a Fellowship Fair some time in the future which currently doesn't exist in my ghost head. Bombarded by yellow pants, glittery shoes, mens' suits that look absurdly large, the crowd parts like the Red Sea and there she stands.
Large dark eyes, brown skin, jet black hair, perfect hands. She doesn't see me but I watch as she turns her back, her pinkpurple lace ballerina skirt flouncy and delicate. The voice of a Baptist teenager speaks Spanish so slowly even I can understand. Ropa Gratis. The immense love I feel for this angel on my Earth widens as she stands on tiptoe, her hands barely reaching a pink frosted donut with sprinkles.
She faces me, me the white ghost who is smitten by this three-year-old chubby cherub wearing a Dora the Explorer t-shirt. She is focused and solemn, holding her donut with both hands. Slowly she takes a bite then carefully places the pink confection on the asphalt while pirouetting perfectly to get another donut. Unsmiling, she takes a bite of the second donut as the sunlight dazzles her dark hair so that she becomes holy and I wholly in the moment, wait to see her smile.
She doesn't smile but thoughtfully chews then bends over in her flouncy, lacy ballerina skirt, placing the second donut on the asphalt next to the pink one missing one bite. This little girl on this Saturday stage reaches for the pink donut with sprinkles, takes another bite then places it back down. Two donuts side by side on the parking lot with bites out of them. I wonder where her family is when her eyes are drawn to the end of the Ladies clothing table.
Her donut sticky fingers find amongst a pile of costume jewelery a necklace with silvery hearts. Both hands untangle the hearts methodically, including mine, and as she triumphantly lifts the necklace over her head, ever so briefly her eyes meet mine. With my melted ghost heart, I smile saying one word I hope in my white ghost brain she understands... "pretty"... and am rewarded with the hint of a smile which I will remember long after Saturday's gone.