Seems like life rolls along. Then, all of a sudden, something smacks you so hard and fast it knocks your easy breath straight out.
It's hard to recover.
It's hard to smile and pretend.
It's hard to put one foot in front of the other when you feel like your knees are going to give. Suddenly the day feels January cold and a dark cloud hovers near.
So I gather the children and walk the dog. I breathe fresh air and try untangle my thoughts We put a half-mile on our legs, or more. And when I return, when we trudge up the drive, there's a box by the door.
It's colored bright like the sun.
I climb the steps and wonder. Then I see the top of the box. It's zebra print. And I know exactly who it's from.
The box is from my friend.
I hold the box with gloved hands and while the boys unwind their layers. It takes a long time to kick off boots, to hang jackets, so I leave them to their business on the porch. I take the box to the kitchen and slide a knife along the taped edge. I pry the flaps loose. And I smile.
Everything is sunshine-yellow inside. It's a box of hope for a sunnier day.
There are lemon bars and yellow hair bands (my friend's girls know I never can find one). There's a bracelet with yellow beads. There are yellow socks and a yellow workout top. There's lip balm in a yellow tube. There's yellow nail polish and yellow note pads and Scripture placed throughout on paper that is yellow, too.
I cry as I poke through the box. My heart has been touched deep.
And then I find the banana.
It's plastic. And bright. And suddenly I'm laughing like mad. It strikes me as funny, and the laughter is dear. I wonder how the banana made it to the box among all these sweet things. I wonder if it was chosen by my friend's young son (I can just see it - and I smile). I wonder if it was placed there for this reason - to make me forget for a moment. To make me laugh.
It doesn't matter because the right now the release, the mixture of laughter and tears, is a healing balm.
The boys have finished. Their boots are in a row. They come into the kitchen, eager to look through the box. We sit and paw through and enjoy. When we're finished, I slip the banana into my purse. It's light and doesn't take much space. I want to carry it with me as a reminder.
The banana reminds me of friends' love. It reminds me that others are willing to carry our burden, too, and when this happens it is sweet. But most of all it reminds me of how gracious and creative God is - of how much He loves me - and how He used precious hearts and hands, on a gray winter day, to bring me the warmth of the sun.