There are two days in my life I've always remembered. Not for any particular crisis, or for trouble with my husband or children. In fact, not for anything big you can put your finger on. But it was a time span that proved very important to me.
It started when I went to my neighbor's the middle of one morning to borrow a cup of sugar. I found her sitting cross-legged on the floor playing a game of Monopoly with her six-year-old Patty. 'Well,'' I said.
''Well yourself,'' she returned. ''How about joining us?''
''I'm in a rush,'' I explained. ''I'm making a cake. Then I need to start my washing. All the clothes we own are dirty.''
''So are ours,'' said Kate. ''But Patty's been home from school for two days and she needs some stimulation.'' She turned her head and smiled up at me. ''So do I.''
I went home, baked my cake, washed clothes, collapsed for a 15-minute nap, and continued my day. When my Flora Jane came home from first grade I had just waxed the kitchen floor. I warned, ''Don't step on it.'' She took the hint and went to a friend's house across the street to play.
After an early dinner, I walked out to sweep my back steps. When I looked next door there was Kate, standing in the middle of her yard, squinting at the sky. I took one hand off the broom and waved to her. She beckoned to me. ''Hey, come over. Take a look at this gorgeous sunset.''
''Sunset?'' I peered around the sycamore tree in Kate's yard and there indeed was a sunset, all rosy and orangey and smoky, with a few clouds climbing through it.
''I haven't seen this pretty a sunset in a long time,'' Kate called.
I propped my broom against the house and walked over. ''You can see it better here than from our yard,'' I admitted. ''But I've got to hurry back. My dinner dishes are still in the sink.''
''So are mine,'' Kate reported cheerfully.
I fell into bed around 10, and then it was another day. It turned out to be warm for early spring, so I got busy washing windows. I had barely started when there was a knock on my door. I opened it to Kate. She was beaming.
''Hey, did you know my crocuses are up?'' she asked. ''And there are two hyacinths in bloom.'' She held out her hand. ''I kept one, and here's one for you.''
I took the fragrant blue-purple flower. I breathed deeply. It brought all of spring to me - rich, damp, black earth; waving yellow daffodils; winging birds. ''Come take a peek at the crocuses.'' Kate reached for my hand.
I pulled back. ''Oh, but I'm right in the middle of washing a window.''
The day wore on. After the children came home from school, I heard them playing in front of our house. When I opened the front door to shake a shag rug, I saw Kate sitting on her steps. ''Hey, come join us,'' she invited. ''The kids are playing Olympics. Over there by your house is the starting line; here by me is the finish line. I'm the judge. They're arguing so much about my decisions that I could use a backup judge.''
I walked out in the yard a way. ''Oh, but as soon as I finish cleaning I'm going to fix the makings for stew,'' I told Kate. ''Some other time.''
''By then the kids will have grown up, the crocuses will have faded. . . .'' Kate's voice was a thin whisper. Then it rose. ''Patty,'' she called. ''What you're doing isn't fair.''
''What'd you say?'' I asked. ''I could hardly hear you. Did you say . . .?''
''Never mind,'' she said. ''Mainly I was talking to Patty.''
I paused. Then I turned back and threw the rug down in my front hall, went into the kitchen, and slid the stew meat into the refrigerator. Slipping into a jacket, I hurried outdoors. I sat down by Kate.
''I'll be a judge,'' I said.