Walking through the doors of the market was like taking a step back in time. A bell, attached to the top of the door, actually rang when we entered. I couldn't help but think of ZuZu Bailey when I heard it: "Every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings." I needed an angel.
Lydia and I came out of the restroom all washed up and ready to complete the final leg of our journey. I observed the inventory belonging to this roadside market plunked down on a country road in the middle of nowhere. It was sparse indicating the place was not accustomed to entertaining large numbers of visitors. The windows in the front of the store nearly reached from the floor to the ceiling, and a fair haired girl with ringlet curls who looked to be three years old pressed her face onto the panes, leaving the print of her nose and mouth behind. Each time she would pull her face away, she giggled with abandon at the piece of herself left behind on the glass.
She tugged on the shirt of an older gentleman who remained close by her side, even though she could have safely inhabited the entire store with no fear or worries. Pointing at the disappearing prints, she shined: "Look Papaw! It's me on the window!"
He was so kind to her, patiently standing beside her, laughing out loud along with her.
Near the cash register, stood a woman I guessed to be the girl's mother. I hadn't noticed her before, but quickly put two and two together and surmised the old gentleman was also her father. Our eyes met.
"You doin' alright today?" she asked.
"Yes", then dipping my head toward the window: "I guess with all this snow and ice, you guys are really feeling the Christmas spirit!"
The twenty something year old, wearing natural beauty in the place of makeup with her hair pulled up into a simple high ponytail said: "Yep", then looking to the little girl, "especially her."
The one called Papaw was now holding his granddaughter's hand while she carefully hopped from window sill to window sill. It was her game, and he was happily playing it with a broad smile across his face.
"We don't have much, but we got love. And that's all that matters this time of year", she continued with a smile. I could tell she was proud to be the momma of that little giggling bundle of energy.
Then Papaw looked up and spoke to me for the first time. He had been so in tune to the girl with the ringlet curls, I was unsure he even knew I was nearby. The dark leathery skin belonging to the man at the center of his granddaughter's affection displayed lines around his eyes proving he had spent many days smiling. His eyes, though, were deceiving. They were as blue and as young as those belonging to a teenage boy:
"That's all that matters ANY time of year."
The white haired grandfather then turned back to the frolicking angel. At the counter, his daughter turned to pour herself another cup of coffee. And I opened the door, again heard the bell ring, and left.
Chappy had been sitting out in the car waiting. The car felt warm and comfortable. The butterflies in my stomach were gone.
When we entered the gates of the "Wings Of Faith Academy", I thought to myself: "We have love, and that's all that matters."
Chappy parked the car, turned to Lydia and me and announced: "We are finally here girls. Let's go have a great visit with Nat-Nat!"
The next thing you know, I was standing on a covered porch, Chappy and Lydia behind me, ringing a doorbell.
The door opened slightly, and we were immediately knocked back by sounds of screaming girls and clapping hands. At first I couldn't make out what they were saying, probably because I was so surprised by the sound. But then it became clear: "We are so proud of you Natalie! Have a great visit with your family!"
The door continued to open until she appeared. It was Natalie.
(continued tomorrow)----Thank you to all who have ordered The Loyalty Lock from Lydia. She is giving a portion of the proceeds to the therapeutic boarding school where Natalie is residing. The school is wanting to build a gym for their 20 female residents, and Lydia is determined to help make that happen. To order your Loyalty Lock, visit: http://www.loyaltylock.org/ They are $14.99 with a flat $2.00 shipping: