They were two friends from Guatemala, young, pretty and energetic. They cleaned houses together. Every Thursday morning Maria and Carlita zipped in and zoomed in around, chattering and giggling endlessly in Spanish as they worked their way through the dust mites.
One day as I worked in my garden I noticed two large planters overflowing with water. I hadn’t realized it before, but the planters had no drainage holes in the bottoms. Every time I had watered, the soil became more saturated, sour and putrid.
I was furious with myself for not checking the bottoms of those planters before filling them with potting soil and beautiful pink David Austin Roses.
Now what could I do? There was no choice but to empty the planters and start over again.
Maria and Carlita recognized the problem, motioned me aside, and took command. They shoveled the ruined soil into a large wheelbarrow. Our property sits on a steep hill leading down to a branch of the Whippany River: an untamed, unused, ungardened area. Each woman put her hands on the handle and started pushing the wheelbarrow down the hill. They would dump the soil down there.
But they misjudged the steepness of the hill and the weight of the load.
As the walk became steeper the wheelbarrow rolled faster and they completely lost control of it. But they still held onto the handle. It raced down the hill, dragging them with it. Watching the scene, I was horrified. Maria and Carlita galloped alongside the wheelbarrow, struggling to get it back under control. But the wheelbarrow would not yield, not slow down, and not relinquish control.
When the runaway wheelbarrow finally came to a stop I raced down the hill, worried and upset. What had happened to them? What would I find down there? Mangled bodies? Broken bones? Blood?
I shuddered to think.
But a shock greeted me. No screaming, crying, or cursing, as I or anyone else I know would do.
The wheelbarrow had toppled over and was lying on its side. And there they were, two friends lying in the grass, laughing as if this were the funniest experience of their lives. They shook gleefully with the joy of their bungled effort, thought it was hilarious, and fully enjoyed the humor of their misadventure.
My blood pressure probably rose at least fifty points.
THEY were enjoying the day and whatever came along with it.
No stress, no worries, no anger.
This incident happened over 10 years ago, but it is as fresh in my mind now as it had just happened. I can still see them, rolling in the grass, laughing.
I can’t imagine laughing at this experience if it had happened to me. I can’t imagine anyone I know who would think it was funny if it happened to them.
But why not? Why are we so starched and serious? Why can’t we see humor in the unexpected?
I don’t know the answer to my question, but I do know that on a summer day years ago those two young women gave me a lot to think about.
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