Dear Laura,

Happy 60th birthday! I can’t imagine a neighbor in all the world better than the one God blessed me with a quarter century ago! Come to think of it, if you ask me, we have all been blessed with the greatest neighbors in all the land!

Sometimes when the stresses of life pile on and I feel pulled in a thousand different directions with big kid issues, illness, ageing, and just ordinary troubles, I reach deep into my memory bank and feel peace wash over me when I reflect on one of the best days EVER.

A vast canopy of an old Pin Oak tree.

Picture perfect weather. Early morning in early June.

Adirondack chairs in the grass facing a dirty blacktop driveway.

Two young moms sipping morning coffee.

Two little boys and two little girls happily playing close by, easy to keep an eye on.

Happy, energy-filled children. Running, skipping, shouting, giggling, teasing, dancing, twirling, creative, silly, strong, athletic, imaginative, lighthearted, spontaneous, free.

Nothing organized. Just good old-fashioned free play.

Soles of little feet more and more black with asphalt as the sun rolls across the blue sky.

Between sips of coffee, easy conversation. So much in common.

One runs in to whip up a quick lunch for the kids. More like a great big snack: whatever is on hand.

Random neighbors pop over to join in the conversation.

Sun high in the sky, more kids come and go; one off to Badger Field, another off to Smokey Row Pool, another off down the street. Soon some circle back to join in the lazy play.

I’m sure there are plenty of chores inside on this sunny Saturday; they can wait.

Ope, here comes a watermelon! Here comes half a sheet cake! Two more reasons to stay outside and not rush in to prepare dinner.

Husbands come and go, bringing sustenance to their families, happy to see their children scurrying to-and-fro and their wives relaxing. (That NEVER happens!)

Moms talking, laughing, crying, sharing, bonding.

Fully present in this ideal space.

And before we know it, the sun glows orange in the west.

And fireflies flicker. And bats dive-bomb mosquitos.

A chill settles into the air as we carry exhausted little angels into the house and directly to the bathtub, where we try our best to scrub the blacktop off their tiny feet before nestling them into their clean sheets.

Thank you, Laura, for taking the time to make this indelible memory with me. I believe God gives us sweet memories like this and good friends to carry us through the tough times in life. Thank you for being there for me over the years.

Love you forever, Mia

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