The Greens and the Browns
Updated: Jun 7
Charlie Green came home after a busy day of fixing pipes, toilets, and other plumbing jobs. He was tired. His tall slim frame slumped as he came through the door, but he brightened when he saw his daughters running toward him. Six-year-old Betty Sue with her long flaxen hair and blue eyes was first to jump onto his knee as he squatted with his arms outstretched. Linda Lou, her junior by two years, took the other knee. She had her daddy’s brown wavy hair. Both girls enjoyed a hug from their daddy as he growled and rubbed his stubbly chin on each of his daughter’s cheeks after planting a kiss. The girls giggled and walked with him to his favorite chair. He put his feet up on the well-worn foot stool. Each daughter chose a boot and began undoing the laces. Once they pulled off his boots, they smiled mischievously and began to tickle their daddy’s feet. He gave a warning sound, the girls giggled and raced from the room. Charlie smiled as he picked up his iPad to check his emails. His wife, Rhonda, leaned down and pecked him on the cheek. Her long blond ponytail fell forward over Charlie’s shoulder. “Dinner will be ready in ten minutes.”
An hour later two cars pulled in the driveway next door. Mr. and Mrs. Brown were home.
“I thought you were going to pick up the kids today!” Sheela slammed the door on her Lexis SUV making her short black curls dance. She glared at her husband.
“I told you I had a meeting. They are on your way home. What’s the big deal?” Gaylin yelled back.
“What’s the big deal?” The color rose in Sheela’s face. She waved her arm and pointed at their two preschool children in the back seat. “Jack and Janell had to wait in the office until I arrived, and I had to pay a late fee!”
The argument continued as the four struggled into the house with bags, backpacks and papers.
Gaylin just wanted some peace and quiet after a day of ringing phones, irate customers, and boring meetings. Inside sales at the big electronics firm paid well, but was so stressful. His stomach rumbled. “I’m starving,” he said.
Sheela glared at him.
Gaylin thought fast, “How ‘bout we call for a pizza?”
The children began to chant, “Pizza! Pizza! Pizza!” Jack had black curls like his mom while Janell had straight blond hair like Gaylin.
“Whatever you want,” Sheela said, looking away and waving her hand, “It’s all about you!”
The children, Jack 5 and a Jennell 3, began arguing over a Pokémon toy. “It’s mine!” screamed Jennell.
“I had it first!” Jack yelled back.
“I can’t take this anymore!” Sheela shrieked as she went into the bedroom and slammed the door.
Next door the Greens had just finished dinner when Charlie and Rhonda looked at each other, then toward their neighbors. “They’re at it again,” Charlie whispered to Rhonda. He took her hand, and they bowed their heads in prayer. Betty Sue and Linda Lou did likewise. The family prayed until they heard a door slam and the screaming stopped. Then they got up from the table and began to clear the dinner things. The girls helped bring dishes to the sink before going to start their bathwater.
Rhonda looked at Charlie, “You want to wash or dry?”
“I’ll wash,” he said.
Rhonda told about lessons and gardening with the girls and Charlie told about traffic and plugged draines while they cleaned up the kitchen and the girls splashed in the tub. When the dishes were done, Charlie went outside to check the garden. When he returned, Rhonda had the girls dressed for bed.
“Time for prayer,” he announced.
They prayed together, then Rhonda read a Bible story about a man who did not want to obey God and got swallowed by a big fish.
“I thought he was swallowed by a whale,” Betty Sue mused with her index finger on her cheek.
“Thath’s what Thithser Gwyneth told us in Thunday Thchool.” Linda Lou nodded.
“We just read where God said it was a big fish but a lot of people think it was a whale.” Charlie continued, “I think there’s confusion because someone translated the Greek word as ‘whale’ in the New Testament, even though the word means big fish.” He smiled at his daughter, “Good catch, Betty Sue.” He looked at the younger one and tickled her under her chin, “You too Linda Lou.”
After the girls were tucked up in bed for the night, Charlie and Rhonda got a call from some friends. Bernie and Roxanne came over and the four of them played “Password” around the kitchen table. Rhonda thought it would be a quiet game to play while the children were asleep, but they laughed till they cried and almost woke them.
The pizza finally arrived-- cold.
The Brown family ate it while watching a TV show. The children in the show were what Sheela’s mom would have called “Smart Alecks”, but everyone laughed.
The pizza box and leftover crusts were left on the coffee table. The family watched show after show. One movie showed too much in the bedroom and Sheela jumped to cover the eyes of the kids, but they had fallen asleep on the couch.
Gaylin and Sheela decided to leave the kids on the couch so as not to wake them up. It would have worked if Jack hadn’t rolled off and bumped his head on the coffee table. His howls woke the household about 2AM.
“AAAA! There’s blood!” Sheela swayed and steadied herself against the couch as she grimaced.
Gaylin came running. Everyone was bundled up into the car for a trip to Emergency. After waiting almost two hours, Jack was finally seen. X-rays were taken, and the wound cleaned, stitched and bandaged.
An aging doctor entered the room. He had a potbelly and thinning salt and pepper hair. He looked at them with lugubrious eyes, “You’ll need to keep a close eye on him for at least 24 hours.”
“But, what about school tomorrow?” asked Sheela.
“No school for this young man. If everything goes well tomorrow, maybe he can return on Wednesday. We can do a video appointment tomorrow evening and decide then.” He gave a few quick instructions and was gone.
“I can’t stay home with him tomorrow.” Gaylin complained on the way to the car. “I’ve got an important meeting. You’ll have to call in.”
“Why is it always me?” Sheela didn’t protest too hard. A day off sounded good to her.
In the morning, Sheela called in for both children. It was her day off too and she planned to stay in her PJs as long as possible.
Rhonda dressed the girls and sent them out into the garden to find a ripe tomato. She was almost finished making Charlie’s breakfast, when they came in with two ripe tomatoes.
“Look Mama! We found two!”
The Greens ate while Betty Sue and Linda Lou told about the hummingbird and the potato bug they had seen in the yard while looking for the tomatoes. Then a surprise.
“We saw Jack and he has his head all wrapped up,” said Linda Lou.
“I wonder what happened.” Rhonda mused, “I think I’ll check later and see if there’s anything I can do to help. We’ve got lots of tomatoes. I’ll take some to Sheela and see if everything is alright.” She thought about the abundance of tomatoes. “There’s plenty of tomatoes, how does spaghetti sound for dinner tonight?
“I’m too full to think about food, but it sounds good anyway.” Charlie said. He checked the time and put out his hands. “Time to pray before I’ve got to go.” They joined hands and prayed around the table. After the ‘amen’ Charlie kissed each of his girls good-by. Heading out the door, he smiled heavenward and said, “I am so blessed.”
Later, as Rhonda approached her neighbor’s door, she could hear Sheela yelling at her kids and wondered if she should knock.
Betty Sue did not hesitate. She reached out and knocked loudly on the door.
Rhonda heard swear words before the door opened.
“Oh!” Sheela was embarrassed to see her neatly dressed neighbor standing there with a large bowl of tomatoes and two tidy kids. She was still in her robe and her kids were in pajamas.
“Hi Sheela, I just wanted to share some of my tomatoes. I have so many this year. But if it’s not a good time...”
Linda Lou interrupted with, “What happened to Jackth’s head?”
Now Rhonda was embarrassed. Sheela didn’t seem to mind.
“That’s why we are home. He fell and split open his head last night. The doctor doesn’t want him to go to school yet, but I’m about to go crazy with these kids. I can’t wait to get back to work to have some peace and quiet.” Sheela and Rhonda laughed, and Sheela continued, “Well don’t just stand there, come on in. Don’t mind the mess.” Sheela moved back to make way for them to come in. The tense atmosphere changed as they entered. Jack and Jennell quit arguing and invited Betty Sue and Linda Lou to play with them. Rhonda and Sheela watched the children while they visited around the kitchen table.
This was the first time they had sat and talked. Previously their friendship had consisted of waving to each other while coming and going in their respective driveways.
“I wish I could grow stuff,” Sheela said, “I think our thumbs match our names. Mine is Brown and yours is green.”
They laughed together and Rhonda replied, “I can help you grow some things if you want. It’s not hard.”
Soon Sheela and the kids got dressed and everyone trotted over to Rhonda’s garden. “I need to thin some of my vegetables and flowers, and you are more than welcome to them.”
“You mean they are already plants and you don’t need them?”
“Right, the plants will grow better if they have more room. I’ll get them together for you.” After collecting several young plants Rhonda had an idea. “Would you all like to come over for dinner tonight? I’m making spaghetti and there’s always enough for an army.”
“Are you kidding?” Sheela said, “Spaghetti’s my favorite! I’ll make garlic bread. I make killer garlic bread, Gaylin even says so.”
That night Sheela showed Rhonda how to make killer garlic bread and Rhonda showed Sheela how to make spaghetti sauce from scratch. Rhonda added lots of fresh herbs and would have forgotten the salt if Sheela didn’t reminded her.
After dinner, the men went outside and inspected the garden.
Gaylin was impressed. “Wow, how do you guys find time to do this?”
“Rhonda stays home with the kids. She homeschools them and this is part of their classroom.”
They moved on to inspect each other’s cars. Gaylin had a brand-new cherry red jeep with all the bells and whistles.
“Wow, that’s a beauty,” Charlie said.
“Thanks. Got a good deal on her too. Only $500 a month on a two-year lease.”
Charlie choked. “My, my. Looks like it can do anything. What are all these gismos?”
Gaylin happily showed off his top-of-the-line Jeep Rubicon then asked, “What is that your driving?”
“Just an old beater. It gets me to work and back and it’s paid for.” Charlie smiled, “That’s its best feature, no monthly payments.”
The men laughed as they walked back toward the house.
Inside they found the children ready for bed and snuggled up on the big couch with their mommies listening to a story. Sheela had made a quick trip home for pajamas and her children’s favorite book. Sheela was just getting to a favorite part when they entered.
“Geronimo!” she yelled in a funny scratchy voice and everyone laughed.
Next it was Rhonda’s turn to read a story.
“We always read a Bible story and a non-Bible story with the kids before prayer and bedtime. Do you mind if I read a Bible story?”
Sheela was surprised but intrigued, “I picked the last one so, go ahead, read whatever you like.”
Rhonda got a book off the shelf, “Ok, here’s one about the wedding at Canna.”
The men were sitting at the kitchen table having a cup of coffee.
“Your home feels so peaceful,” Gaylin looked around the neatly kept kitchen.
“Thank you. God is good to us.”
Soon they heard Rhonda call Charlie. He looked over at Gaylin, “must be time for prayer. Would you like to join us?”
“You guys pray? Yeah, I’d like to see this.”
They returned to the living room. Charlie prayed a blessing over his children and asked, “Can I pray for your children too?”
Afterward Rhonda led her girls to bed and brought some blankets and pillows to the living room for Jack and Jennell. It did not take long before all four children were fast asleep, and the Password game was brought to the kitchen table.
Later that night Gaylin and Sheela tucked Jack and Janelle into their own beds, kissed them tenderly and left their bedroom door open a crack so they could hear them.
“I never knew Password could be so fun,” Gaylin said as they walked to their own room.
Sheela giggled and gave her husband a hug. “I laughed till I cried.”