When I awoke it was bright with light in the room. The lady was not in bed anymore. Skye and I got up, and I made my way downstairs and found the lady in the kitchen making breakfast and humming. I don’t ever remember her humming before. That made the kitchen seem brighter than it has ever felt. I was filled with joy as I entered it. All I knew was it was music in that white house and so I threw up my hands and danced across the floor.
She had just turned and seeing me laughed and said, “Well, that’s a new way to enter, isn’t it!” She scooped me up into her arms and hugged me. Was this my life?
“Are you okay with pancakes, bacon, eggs, orange slices and orange juice for breakfast?”
Okay with all that? I nodded. I thought for certain I had died and gone to heaven! I told Jesus on the inside, Thanks for all the blue here this morning! And an answer came with a wash of color and wave of joy flowing over me.
I got Skye his food and put it down on the floor, then went and sat down while he ate vigorously. Then I got down, let him outside, and washed my hands in the bathroom sink. It is right around the corner from the kitchen. It is the bathroom that had the window I used last night to break into the house!
The lady brought over a plate of pancakes with bacon, an over-easy egg, sliced oranges and then my orange juice. She brought me maple syrup. There were chocolate chips in the pancakes. CHOCOLATE CHIPS? I stared at them and then looked up at the lady! Really? I was thinking in my head. Really? She saw my eyes and laughed.
“Well, it’s kind of a new beginning morning, isn’t it? And I think pancakes with chocolate chips are better. And it looks like you are okay with them.”
Was I okay? Something good was happening in my life.
“I already ate, but let’s pray and you can begin.” We did. It was not the same prayer we used to say. It was different today. Everything was different today.
The lady got up and let Skye back in and I dug into my pancakes with syrup. Well, syrup with pancakes and egg. Then, I ate the bacon, one piece at a time, and then savoring them, the orange slices. I like eating food one thing at a time. I enjoyed all the bites and then drank my orange juice. My insides felt good. I was happy.
The lady got up and took out a piece of paper from her pocket and went to the phone and dialed. She greeted saying, “Hello Maggie? This is Dorothy Smythe, Phillip’s mom.” She was quiet while she was greeted, and I realized my day had just gotten better.
“I’m calling to begin those piano lessons for Phillip. Yes. Well, right now I am not working. Yes, got laid off in the recession five years ago. But hope to get back to it sometime. Although, right now, it is better to be able to be home. So, anytime would work. Today we have plans to go to the paint store so that Phillip and I can paint his room.” She waited. “Yes. Well it is kind of a long story, but the end is that Phillip would like his room painted his favorite colors and right now it isn’t.” She listened. “If Phillip could talk, I am certain he would say that blue was his favorite color, probably a deep, vibrant blue. Like the sky on a cloudless day.”
I didn’t know. I really didn’t know. The lady in the white house knew more about me than I realized. Although I had spent lots of time with her, before she had been angry, hurting, sad and not very present to me. She had spent lots of the time frustrated with the man with the car. But last night and today that had begun to change. The lady I was overhearing talking on the phone was a better lady in the white house than I had yet known. Jesus had done something.
“Okay then, Maggie. Phillip and I will be there at 3:30 pm today. That’s wonderful. Thank you so much. Goodbye until then.” Then, she turned to me and smiled a big happy smile. “Phillip! Your first piano lesson with Maggie will be this afternoon. I’m going to call my friend Molly and see if she would like to come help paint your room with us, too. Is that okay if she helps?”
I nodded. I liked Molly. She went to our church. I saw her sometimes there.
“Okay, then. When you have finished your breakfast, you can get clothes on and we can get ready and go pick out the colors for your room.”
I did something that I had never, ever done then. I got down off my chair and walked over to the lady and hugged her. She hugged back. When I pulled away there were tears in her eyes. Then I went upstairs, pulled up the plastic sheet from my dresser and picked out clothes for the day. My blue t-shirt, yellow long pants, green socks and then walked downstairs in my stocking feet and pointed to them and gestured, my hands up, elbows bent.
The lady said, “Oh, right. Where are your shoes? Come on, let’s go look. I’m certain they are in my room.”
So, we walked back upstairs and there was a box on the floor in which were five pairs of my shoes and another box with six other pairs. They were not together in pairs. They were not organized. It was like the man had just thrown them into the box.
It all flooded back. My undone and ugly-paint room. No closet. No place to run. No safe place. I sat down and began to cry. It felt like that man had made my shoes all sad and I was sad. Skye curled up next to me and put his paws on my leg. I leaned over him. It felt good to cry. The lady waited. She knew it was not necessary to ask me questions. She let me just cry. And she sat there. I didn’t know she could do that.
I began to say my numbers through five really quietly under my breath as I leaned over Skye.
After three times through, I felt better. I looked up. And then looked into the box.
I didn’t like that box of disheveled shoes. But picked out my red, canvas tennis shoes. The lady tied them for me.
Then, she said, “Well, don’t you look colorful today! I think that is the perfect outfit for the paint store!”
When we got downstairs again, there he was: the man with the car. He was standing in the kitchen. He looked all unkempt, upset, and angry. He always looked angry. He was standing there in the kitchen. He had just come in the door. He looked at us and something crossed his face. It wasn’t nice.
Then he snarled, “Well, where do you think you are off to? Out to spend more of my money?”
The woman just looked at him. She didn’t react. She looked. He looked back. He had expected something else. But he had not expected her to not react to him.
“Well?” he said again.
Without saying a thing, she took my hand, and we walked around him. He moved to let the three of us walk past. He didn’t stop us. We went out the door and got into her car, Skye and me in the backseat, and drove away.
That encounter stuck with me. The man with the car seemed so powerful all the time. But that day, I realized he was like the storm in Jonah’s story—big and loud and able to harm—but nothing that needed to redefine a story. So often the man had written whole sections of my story. But when she didn’t give into the storm, and thus was not swept up into it, he lost power. Somehow, the lady had shown that she was really the stronger of the two, even if he was the one who acted worse most of the time.
We had driven down the driveway, turned onto the main road away from the park, and turned another corner, before the lady let out a long breath and then said, “Well, Phillip, perhaps things can change at home. Daddy didn’t stop us from leaving. I’m so thankful.”
I reached out and put my hand on Big Skye’s back and stroked his fur.
When she pulled up to the paint store, she looked back at me and said, “You ready to choose the best color for your room?”
We all got out, and walked in. I had Skye on his leash since we were going into a store. The lady held my left hand. We walked across the parking lot into the building with all the paint cans stacked in the front window, and the sign that showed all the colors on display—like a rainbow in the sky.
Against the wall where the lady went were little cards, each with a different color paint. There were so many, many colors to choose from. They went far above me. They lined up all along a wall. I had never known there were that many colors.
The man who came over to the lady had white hair, lots of wrinkles on his face, and a big belly, but a smile that was bigger still. He walked over toward us, stretching out his hand toward her. “Hello, hello,” he called as he walked toward us. “My name is Henry Williams.”
The lady released my hand, and shook his saying, “Dorothy Smythe and this is Phillip and his service dog, Skye.”
“Hello Mister,” the man said to me, but stayed standing, and then he reached over and patted Skye’s head. Then, he looked back at the lady and said, “What are you looking for today?”
“We need to paint a room. Unfortunately, the walls have a dark paint on them currently, so first we will need to block that in order to paint over it.”
“Okay, that’s easy enough,” Mr. Williams said, “Here is the paint that blocks the previous color.” He pulled off a gallon. “How large is the room?” The lady told him, and he pulled off a second gallon.
“Now, what color do you want the walls to be?”
“That’s where I want Phillip to help pick out the colors he wants. We would like a color that is lighter and then a contrast wall.” The lady said.
He led us back to that wall of all the little cards. It was like a magical array of color. I’d never seen so many colors in one place. It was beautiful.
“Look at that boy,” Mr. Williams marveled. “I don’t think I have seen anyone’s face as filled with wonder at all those colors. Your boy really loves color, doesn’t he, Mrs. Smythe.”
She looked down at me. “Yes, he does. When drawing he uses all kinds of colors. He loves to organize everything by color. If you saw his drawer, you’d be amazed it belongs to a five-year-old. He loves order and makes certain everything has it”
Again, I didn’t know she had noticed. But she really did.
“Phillip now is our chance to pick out the colors you really want on your walls. We must first paint over the color that is there, so that it doesn’t show through. Then we can repaint the walls the colors you want. How about we paint three walls with one color and the fourth with another, darker, color. That sound okay?”
I nodded. And looked. All those colors!
I reached up and pointed to a card with a very light color on it—almost white but like sunlight through the window, the kind that shone on the floor. Then, I pointed to the color that was my all-time favorite: a deep-sea blue, but not super dark. And it looked like it and the sunlight color would be happy together. They looked like what we had picked at home. Then, I picked a lighter blue for the closet.
The lady took the three cards from my hand and held them up. Mr. Williams smiled, saying, “This boy can have a job here when he is older! I have never seen anything like this. He has a natural affinity for color. Most people combine colors that cancel each other out, but he chose two contrasting colors that work together and enhance the other. These would go beautifully in the room. And I take it this lighter blue is for another space?”
“Yes,” the lady said, and then she smiled down at me. “You have a lot stuffed inside that head of yours, don’t you?”
I shrugged. It seemed obvious to me. Like the most natural thing in the world that those colors belonged together unlike the burgundy and brown that now covered my room’s walls. They just fit. I saw it that way. I felt it. The lady and the man talked about which type of paint to get, what walls we would be painting. He was getting the paint and setting it to mix colors when I looked up and saw the last person I expected to see in this place. Miss Jeanne! My Sunday school teacher!
She walked in with her husband, Mr. Jeanne (I never did know his name). She looked up after entering the store and saw me and said, “Why, Phillip James, my day just improved with seeing you here! Jesus loves you lots, buddy.” I let go of the lady’s hand and ran across the room with Skye to greet her. She was as surprised to see me as I had been to see her walk in. I ran right up to her, hugged her. She bent down hugging me back in her floral print dress and her light blue sweater.
She continued, “I am so glad to see you. My Stewart, Mr. Jamison, and I have been praying for you and your mom since we heard of the accident. And to think we had just had a party for you in class that day we talked about Jonah! I heard that Jesus touched and healed you in the hospital! That’s what I heard. You had a broken bone but then before they put on the cast, they took the second X-ray, and it came out all mended! Is that what Jesus did?”
I nodded and smiled. Nurse Becky had prayed, and I had felt warm all over.
“Well, that’s what I heard. That’s just like Jesus. Never a dull moment following Him. Mr. Jamison and I are here to get paint too. What are you painting?”
I pointed at myself.
“You must mean you are painting your room, are you?” she asked.
“Well, that’s exciting. What color are you painting it?” she asked. But at this point the lady in the white house walked over, greeted Miss Jeanne and her husband, and then she showed them the color squares I had chosen.
“Mr. Williams said Phillip can have a job here when he’s older. He’s a color natural!” she said with laughter.
“Well, those do go well together. Stewart, what do you say we let Phillip James here pick colors for the rooms we are painting too?”
“That sounds like just the kind of adventure I am up for,” old Mr. Jamison said, his face crinkling into a million creases in a smile that lit up the room.
“That okay with you Dorothy?” she asked the lady in the white house.
“Of course,” said the lady. “Phillip would love to do that, I imagine.”
With that, Miss Jeanne and I walked to the wall of color again. And she said, “Now, Phillip, Mr. Jamison and I are painting the living room. All the furniture in the room is brown, the floor is wooden, a light color, and there are three windows, so there’s lots of light. I would like a light color, but still a color for the walls and I would like a contrast wall.
I saw a picture of what she had described in my head with blank walls and then saw what the wood floor and mostly brown furniture would look like with blue or green or peach or gold walls. I looked at the colors and reached up and chose two—a rich peach color and a blue-green contrast wall color. Together they were beautiful. Miss Jeanne smiled.
“I never would have even looked at those colors. But I love the way they work together. What do you think, Stewart?”
“I love that. The good Lord thought to combine peaches and blue-green leaves so I think that would be a good combination.”
With that Miss Jeanne described the second, the third, the fourth room they were painting. For each, I chose colors. Some didn’t need a contrast color, others got one. When I looked up from the wall of color, I saw there were others watching us, as I chose colors. They were coming behind us and picking up the same cards and looking at them, while Mr. Jamison explained that I seemed to have a gift of colors. These people seemed to agree.
When our paint was finished, the lady and I told them goodbye. Miss Jeanne and Mr. Jamison went to have their paint colors mixed while Mr. Williams helped carry our cans out to the car.
“Thank you for being my little salesman today, Phillip. You did a great job.”
That surprised me—a stranger complimenting me. I blushed and looked away. I wasn’t used to that. I turned to get into the car with Big Skye and into my car seat. I still used one since I was not that big yet. I wasn’t used to being noticed for having something I could do that was special. Especially, I wasn’t used to a stranger noticing anything about me, except, that I was different or “special.”
But maybe this was just a different kind of day.