When I was a child, things were very different than they are today. I remember being able to get up in the morning and tell my mother that I was going to my cousins house up the road and then not come back home for hours. Sometimes, in the summer, I would leave the house and not return until that evening. My mother never really worried because of “the neighborhood watch.”
Now, what you know as the neighborhood watch and what we knew to be the neighborhood watch are two totally different things. Where I grew up, the neighborhood watch consisted of about 10 little old ladies who would watch everything you did and just hope you messed up. Back then, I had more parents than I could count on both hands and feet. And these aunts, grandma’s and neighbors would snitch to my mom in a heartbeat!
Then there was “Ms. Flossie.” Her name was Flossie Allen and she was the greatest fear any child could imagine in our neighborhood. On Saturdays, especially during the fall, our gang of thugs would meet at my cousin Timmy’s back yard and play football. We had some pretty rough and tumble games and things would sometimes get out of hand, especially when we would kick the ball off after a score.
When the time for kickoff came, we had two options. We could either kick off toward the road and hope no cars were coming or we could kick off toward Ms. Flossie’s garden. Now, just so you know, there was a fence between cousin Timmy’s yard and Ms. Flossie’s. But as you also know, kicking a football is not an exact science for young boys between the ages of 10 and 14. So on rare occasions, once kicked, the ball would travel at such a trajectory that it would sail over the fence and land in, you guessed it, Ms. Flossie’s garden.
Now, if you want a mental picture of our next move, think of the movie “The Sandlot.” There was the fence that we could not see over. There was the football on the other side of that fence. There was the unknown of just what else was on the other side of that fence and then…the back door would open and close with such authority that we would run for cover like we had been shot out of a cannon.
Immediately, and I mean IMMEDIATELY we heard the most horrifying sound possible. It was Ms. Flossie. What she said brought chills to the deepest part of our souls. “Boys, you kicked that football in my garden and I promise you that you’ve seen it the last time! I’M GONNA TELL YOUR M0MMA’S!!”
Time stood still for what seemed like an eternity. We had been busted and we would never see our precious football again! Life, as we knew it was coming to an end and Ms. Flossie was the angel of death. Surely no one person could be that cruel, that angry, that vindictive. But alas (I’ve wanted to use that word for a long time), it was over. No more football for us. Ms. Flossie had won.
Now, I could end the story there but I won’t. You see, Ms. Flossie went to the same church that most of us boys attended. She was actually one of my grandmothers best friends and for whatever reason, she loved me because of my singing. The Sunday after all hope, and our football, was lost, Ms. Flossie came knocking at my grandmothers door. It was right after our Sunday afternoon meal when our family would come together to eat. When she entered the room, she was greeted by everyone as I slowly sank down underneath the kitchen table. In her hand she had our prized possession, the football. She was not angry and calmly called my name. “Jackie, you come here young man and talk to me. Here is your football. Please make sure not to let those boys kick it over my fence again.” Then, she did the most amazing thing…she hugged me and told me that she had some baseballs that we had sent sailing over the fence and that if I would come to her house, she would get them out of her garage and give them to me. WOW!!
My life was forever changed! No longer would I look at Ms. Flossie the same. In that moment, she went from alien to friend and that relationship would last for years to come. As time went by, I came to realize that she was one of the kindest neighbors we had. When she died, I was asked to sing at her funeral and I gladly did.
You see, life has a way of opening up truth to you in moments when you think the worst is coming. I don’t have any profound thoughts here but I do know that people are pretty much the same. Many are out there waiting to be loved and trusted and, even in this day, friendships are something that can last for a lifetime. The investment is well worth the effort.
When I’m finished writing this blog, I’ll click a button and publish my comments to Facebook for all my friends to read. That’s how quickly we can share our lives with others. It doesn’t take much time to pick up the phone or send an email so why not take a moment and be a friend to someone today.
Go ahead…kick the ball!