“We missed you last week,“ Helen commented as I took a seat beside her at one of the long dining tables which lined the Senior Center, “I hope you weren’t ill.”
“Oh, no. I’m fine. I just got caught up with something and lost track of the time.”
If they only knew. Even now, my heart begins to race as I recall the scene…
I had been nearly ready to leave for our weekly dinner when the strangest feeling came over me. My spine tingled. A luminescent glow drew my gaze. The monitor on my desk--which usually displayed gamboling kittens--now appeared alive, pulsating in shades of blue-green I had never seen before. My computer seemed to call me. Not like when someone says glibly, “Oh, I was going to go wash the dishes but my computer called to me so I went to check my email instead.“ I mean it beckoned…no, commanded me to draw near.
Mesmerized, I obeyed. At once the eerie hues began to swirl. As if emerging from a mist, a face appeared in the spiral’s center. The face, though tear-streaked, was oh, so familiar. She screamed.
“Look, I don’t know what is going on here, old lady, but this is freaky! Who are you?”
“Oh, my. Of course, you would have no idea who I am, but I’m quite certain I know your identity. You’re…you’re me! A good sixty years ago, by the looks of you.” I sank into the desk chair, fanning my face with a trembling hand.
“Well, don’t die or anything, lady! I mean…Sarah.”
I said a prayer to calm myself as we surveyed one another. “Have you any idea what could have caused this?”
“Um…yeah, maybe. I’ve just had the most horrible day imaginable! And I kind of…yelled at God. I told him I needed to know that nothing worse would ever happen…because if it did, I’d just die!” Young Sarah’s face contorted into a grimace. “Will I ever feel any better?“
“Can you tell me what’s wrong?” I asked, though certain I already knew the answer.
Her words tumbled over one another in a rush.
“I have never been so embarrassed in all my life! I finally got up enough nerve to say ‘Hi’ to that dreamy Jeff Phillips. And he actually said ‘Hi’ back! Then I saw him watching me in the cafeteria. I couldn’t believe it! So I hiked my skirt up a little, tossed my hair and flashed a big smile as I went up to get a piece of pie. And then…and then…”
Sarah gulped for air to fuel her sobs. “Then I slipped. I…I fell right on my behind in front of the whole school! Everyone clapped and laughed…including Jeff! I wanted to disappear. I just burst into tears and ran out of there.
“…Then to add insult to injury that annoying Jeremy Jones had the nerve to follow me and tell me that it would all be okay…what‘s done was done. I just needed to lighten up and not take things so seriously. “
Sarah continued in a snarl, “‘Learn to laugh at yourself', he said. Can you believe it? What an idiot!
“So, tell me…this horrible day must be the worst in my--in our--entire life, right?”
I smiled lovingly at the Sarah I had been, so long ago.
“I can’t honestly say today was the worst. But I can tell you that some of the most incredible blessings and joys you’ll ever experience will come about as a direct result of this horrible day. --Oh, and ‘idiot‘--or not--Jeremy is absolutely right. Life goes much better when you learn to laugh at yourself. …And you will.”
The colors on the monitor began to swirl once again. Just before they closed across the screen, young Sarah glanced up with a glimmer of hope in her eyes and a hint of a smile on her lips.
I returned from the dessert bar to take my seat at the table once again, only to find myself sitting on the floor amid splinters of wood and crumbs of chocolate cake. After assuring everyone that I was unhurt, I noticed a few snickers, but they were difficult to hear over my own hearty laughter. Emily--one of the center’s young volunteers--hurried over to help me clean up the mess.
When we had finished she gave me a big hug and brought another chair.
“Sit here, Mrs. Jones, and I’ll bring you another slice of cake.”
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