It was Harvest Festival time at Wilsons Banner Ranch, where I paint faces to raise money for a pet cause. The drizzling weather discouraged attendance the first day. I painted only 80 faces. The $1-a-face earnings would go toward the purchase of something that night at the Family Promise dessert auction.
While guesstimating my income for the next three painting days, I felt strongly convicted that I could count on raising $300. That figure seemed like a leap of faith, what with the scarce crowd and cool, damp weather.
Toward the end of the day, I spied my neighbors at the festival. They had lived across the street from me for a year but evaded conversation. I wanted to break the ice and let them know it’s a good neighborhood. But their dogs had deterred me; one bit a neighbor as he went to the mailbox.
The two elementary-age children were with them, along with a huge surprise — a baby wrapped in a cozy tied to Mom’s front. I didn’t even know she was pregnant.
No one was waiting in my line. I walked quickly over and greeted them.
“Hi neighbors. Getting your pumpkins today?”
“Yup,” Dad answered. “Got to get some decorating done.”
“I didn’t know you have a new baby. How adorable,” I gushed. She truly was. Long black hair and perfect features. “How old is she?”
“One month yesterday,” Mom replied. We talked more baby talk and I returned to my painting.
“OK. What shall I do with this,” I thought? I knew I was meant to give this family something I bought at the auction. Wouldn’t it be great if there was something there for a baby?
I drove home, changed clothes and headed to Family Promise’s biggest fund raiser of the year. I checked out the desserts and other items. The last big item for auction was a rocking horse. It was small — sized for about an 18-month to three-year-old child — and sturdily hand made by an old friend I hadn’t seen for years. His wife provided a lavender frosted angel food cake to go with it. How perfect.
Someone on the other side of the room bid furiously against me. My limit was $300. My mind took a rabbit trail, then I heard the auctioneer repeating $230 over and over and announced. “Sold to bidder number 16 for $225.” Me? Really? And $75 short of my goal?
Thrilled, I carted my horse and cake to the car. It was too late to take it to the neighbors that night. Neither of us was home the next day. It would have to be Monday. My doubting mind planted fear. What would I say? I was nervous.
“This is ridiculous,” I told myself.
Around 3:30, they arrived home. I had scripted my speech and prayed the dogs wouldn’t escape. Dad opened the door a crack and braced his feet against the pushing dogs.
“I have a cake for you to celebrate your beautiful daughter,” I said as I shoved it in his hands. Mom stuck her head out the door and he handed it to her. Both wore smiles and said thanks.
I lifted the horse.
“I found this new ride for her. I know she’s not big enough now, but it won’t be long.”
Their faces — oh, their faces. They were speechless for a bit, then thanked me over and over while hushing the dogs.
I happened to meet Dad at the mailbox one day. We had a five-minute talk about another neighbor’s new furnace being installed. The ice had been broken.
The weekend after the auction, I painted enough faces to make exactly $225.
Chase Hoseley is a freelance writer and retired kindergarten teacher who lives in Clarkston. She looks forward to sharing her out-of-the-box, out-loud thoughts with you each month. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.