Editor's note: In the Saturdays of Advent, a story is being told on the installment plan; this is part two of four. You can read part one here.
“Hello, Mrs. Morley,” said Melanie. “Sorry to bother you this time of day.”
It was dark out, but in December that didn’t make it very late. Mrs. Morley smiled at her and said without a question “Come on in, dear.”
Standing in the older lady’s living room, she felt even more awkward than she had pausing at the door before she knocked, but the only way out is forward, as her dad used to say.
“Mrs. Morley, I hate to be a bother, but I’m in the middle of trying to make some sugar cookies with my boys, and like a fool…” Melanie pulled her hand out of her coat pocket, with the measuring cup in her hand. “I thought I had more sugar than I did, and I wondered if I could borrow a cup of sugar from you?”
If anything, the neighbor’s smile grew larger. “Oh, how sweet. What a lovely Christmas tradition for your sons to remember; just have a seat and let me go look.”
Melanie sat down, and looked around the small and tidy living room, thinking of her own toy-strewn family room next door. There was an upright piano across from the door, and a row of framed pictures across the top: a young man in an old hand-tinted picture wearing a military uniform of some kind, a couple in front of a Christmas tree (was that Mrs. Morley?), and a series of candid or school photos of a few young people who got older, left to right, until a wedding photo anchored the far end.
Shaking her head, Mrs. Morley came back into the room with a small bag in her hand. “If only you had needed eggs or flour! I’m exactly where you are, dear, I thought I had sugar and I don’t except a few spoonfuls on the bottom of the crock. I am so sorry…”
Melanie got up and said “Please don’t apologize. It was just on the chance you might, it will keep until tomorrow I guess.”
Holding out the bag, Mrs. Morley replied “I do have just the solution. Mrs. Kern two doors down has plenty; I just called her. She’s at 648, and will be waiting for you.”
“Oh my, don’t go to the bother of…” stuttered Melanie.
Mrs. Morley laughed. “Too late! I called her on the kitchen phone, it’s the one she and I gossip on all the time. She’s a baker; she used to be a school cook and can’t stop making things for all sorts of events. Almost a caterer, she is, except her cooking is always a pleasant surprise.”
“But before you go, just to contribute to your holiday project,” she said holding the bag out more insistently, “I had some sprinkles and sparkles in red and green sugar that I’m not likely to use soon, which will be perfect for what you’re doing. You’ll do me a favor by taking them.”
Slowly accepting the bag, Melanie got up, and nodded. “Well, if she’s waiting for me, I guess . . .”
“That’s exactly right, dear. She’s happy to hear about a mother wanting to bake cookies for her sons at Christmas, and delighted to help.”
After a few more wishes of the season, Melanie was back out the door, down the walk, then turning towards 648, to a nearly neighbor she’d never even met. What had she gotten herself into, she asked herself.
A bag in one pocket, and a measuring cup in the other, Melanie pulled her coat tightly around herself, and headed on down to the house after next, looking for that elusive cup of sugar.
Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and preacher in central Ohio; he’s ready for some fresh baked cookies just writing this. Let him know what you think happens next at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.
This article originally appeared on Newark Advocate: Faith Works: A cup of sugar, a story for the season, Part 2