When I Grow Up...7:30 AM
Three fifty-five, every afternoon, she showed up on the porch step. She never knocked. But she was always there, punctual, picking at the sole of her Converse.
"The door's unlocked," Mrs. Bailey called, as always.
"My door's always open," she'd told the seventeen-year-old the first time they'd walked the sidewalk from Smalley High. It was, always. Still Maci never used it uninvited.
"I ruined the lemonade," continued the hostess, through the open window. "It's too sour, but I can get you milk. Or water. We're having brownies."
"I like it sour," and Maci climbed up from the porch into the tiny kitchen.
"Oh, that's right. What's the news on the chemistry test?"
"Hey. That's passing."
"Chemistry is stupid."
"Everything is stupid until it makes sense."
They had this argument every day; it was now just another familiar piece in Maci's after-school life. Mrs. Bailey shoved a tall glass of lemonade across the table and tossed a stack of scribbled notebook paper onto the counter. Her house was always quiet -- no children except for the high school kids who wandered in -- but it was never the kind of quiet you'd want to break. Maci sipped her lemonade. A breeze made the curtains noisy. She had all the windows open because the A/C was broken (again): "And we can either eat or starve coolly." Maci had been with her the last shopping trip, pushing the cart while Mrs. Bailey clutched coupons and stared silently at meat prices, as if commanding them to change.
"Never mind," she'd said; "we'll just eat beans again."
The Baileys had nothing, but their house was always full: full of laughter, full of song, full of books saved from library sales. Full of a quiet from the helter-skelter world Maci lived. An apple-scented candle flickered on the countertop next to a jar of pencils.
"I finished my homework on the bus," Maci spoke up. "We didn't have math today, either."
"Fantastic," said Mrs. Bailey. "I have some kitchen clean up to do."
Maci hated chores at home; it was one of -- one of -- the points of conflict between her and her parents. But here at this home, chores were an invitation to something greater than sweeping. Of course, even the mundane could be mundane; that's why the NO WHINING sign was nailed above the sink. Mrs. Bailey said it was mostly for herself; but Maci knew it was for all the kids running through the door -- for people like her. She set to scrubbing the sinks; Mrs. Bailey reorganized the desk she lovingly referred to as the Pigsty. It was hers by day, to store all her random scribblings, and her husband's the minute he walked in. She didn't mind the mess herself. He did. So she cleaned it up.
"Don't you ever get sick of it?"
"Being a housewife?"
"I'm not married to my house," she joked. "Otherwise, yeah, I'd get sick of it."
"But wouldn't you want to do something else? I mean, you're smart."
She laughed. "I hate cleaning," she admitted, "and doing laundry. It'd be easy without that. But I see those things as just a necessary part of my job description. You know my book I'm working on?"
"I type a lot, to get it all out of me. But I don't see myself as a typist. I like to think of myself as an author. And with my home -- I'm just being an artist, but with real people and real lives."
"Yeah. It doesn't pay well." Then she regretted it. Her husband taught English at a tech school nearby, trying to finish his graduate degree so he could land a better job. The Baileys were country mouse poor, as Mrs. Bailey said -- they had everything they needed and nothing else. To ease the pressure off their pennies Mrs. Bailey tutored at her kitchen table, sold random articles here and there, subbed at the elementary school. They'd only been married a year, she taking her college finals a week before saying, "I do." She was smart; she could go anywhere. But she was here. She was straightening her poor husband's desk, a teenage castaway of life rinsing her kitchen sinks, with very few grand prospects left to her name.
"Money's an issue," she said, not very thoughtfully. "I grew up well-off, so this is weird for me, to have so little. But I love it here. I love my husband, and I love my poor little rundown home, and I love all you girls who let me edit your school papers and talk about your futures and show you that there's more to life than boys and college. And hey, we get brownies today, so I'm not complaining. Pass me that washcloth, will you?"
Maci tossed it over, but not before she caught sight of one of Mr. Bailey's ubiquitous yellow sticky notes he left his bride every morning. She smoothed out the paper with her pinkie.
"When I was your age, seventeen," Mrs. Bailey said, "I wanted to be that when I grew up." She nodded to the paper: that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
"Wanted to be that what?" Maci wondered.
"A vessel," said Mrs. Bailey. "A vessel of God's love."
For a few weeks now I felt this scene on my heart -- what my life might look like in a few years. I could have just merely told you that I wanted to marry, and run my own home, and take in kids from my neighborhood who needed a better influence in their lives than the world around them. I could have. But it didn't capture everything about that dream...so I wrote this. And as for the names -- I always thought it'd be pretty ridiculous if I married someone with the last name of Bailey. Ridiculously awesome, that is. What is your dream?