I miss the cool summer breeze gently hitting upon my cheeks. Daily I would ride my 10 speed bike after school until the sun went down. Up and down our dead end circle street. Most of my neighbors were indoors for dinner during these times. Often I would hear the sound of clinking silverware through their screen doors. Professionals chattering about their work day as they went to take their dinner seat, alongside their family.
I don’t know what I enjoyed more, the peaceful ride on these summer nights, or observing these upper middle class families. There were lessons to be learned. Their normalcy, I observed. Mr. Kahl, our next door neighbor, spent a lot of time working outside on his yard. With his tools on his belt, he would tirelessly work on his garden, flowers, and cut the grass almost daily. He had a grass greener than any I had ever seen.
Excited, I’d wave my hand from left to right every time I saw him. “Well hello there, Zina,” he would say in a genuine tone. He was one of my favorite neighbors. These opportunities to say hello while neighbors were outside made me wonder what it was like in their house. I wondered if it were anything like mine. Mine was full of the bustling ruckus of older brothers and sisters who argued sometimes. My parents had a big social life, thus, they weren’t always around.
I may have been twelve. I may have been a girl, but I felt this connection to some of my neighbors I could not explain. I especially liked the quietness of those rides, the peace. The silence made it easier to feel the presence of God, and know he was there. For a child, it was the only way to escape on my own little silent retreat. Often he would speak to me in the silences of my heart.
And often I would hear my mother calling from inside, “Zinaaa, what are you doing?” my mom would yell. Frustrated at my long absence, she ordered, “Come in and eat!” I would sigh, as I skipped over the hose on the lawn to stop the running water. I had no choice but to stop watering the bushes and plants and go inside. I suppose I was competing with Mr. Kahl, and trying to make our lawn look as good as his. But no matter how green our grass was, it could never be like his.
The ride on my bicycle was an escape. It’s when I heard from God. “This path would not be easy,” he told me. “But he would never leave me, nor would he forsake me. He would always be with me.” I could always escape, on my own little silent retreat.