Two Prayers, One Answer

Debbonnaire Kovacs

Solomon Nassim El-Charif stood at the window of his new bedroom and looked out at the muddy mess that would eventually be the front yard. His family had finally moved into their exciting new house. The inside looked fairly neat already, because the first thing Mother had done was to hire a housekeeper named Mrs. Moore. Solly missed their old housekeeper, but Mrs. Moore seemed nice. She picked him and his sister, Sara, up at church school every day and brought them home where she had a snack waiting for them.

Solly looked over the trees to Susannah and Matt Farmer’s house. He was glad to have new friends right next door, but he wished they went to school with him. Their mother taught them at home. Solly wondered what it would be like to go to school at home. His eyes caught movement, and he saw his mother’s blue car coming up the wet driveway. It was paved so at least it wasn’t muddy. He ran down the stairs and into the kitchen, arriving just as Mother came through the door from the garage.

“Mother, Mother!”

“Hello, Solly,” Mother said in Arabic, as she bent to hug him. She seemed sad and tired, and Solly felt immediately worried.

“How was your day, Dr. El-Charif?” Mrs. Moore asked.

“All right. I’m just tired.” Mother rubbed her eyes.

Solly felt relieved. It wasn’t one of her really bad days then.

The kitchen door opened again, and Papa breezed in, greeting everyone cheerfully, smiling at Mrs. Moore, giving Solly a bear hug, and wrapping his arms around Mother, who looked more cheerful immediately. “When do we get a front yard instead of a sea of mud?” he asked.

“Who knows?” Mother sat down and pulled off her shoes and her head covering. “I fired the landscape designer yesterday.”

“You did? Why?” Papa looked surprised.

“You should have seen his designs. We moved to the country so we could have a real garden, not so our yard would look like the hospital parking lot!”

“That’s too bad. You need your garden.”

Solly knew this was true. At their old house, which only had a tiny yard, Mother had still spent a lot of time in “her garden.” She especially seemed to need bushes and flowers after a bad day at work.

“Oh well, it’s a long time until spring anyway. I have time to find someone else,” Mother said. She looked wistful. “I wish I had time to design it myself.”

Solly wondered if Mother’s need for a garden was important to Jesus.

“May I go to Susannah and Matt’s?” he asked.

“After supper,” Papa told him. “Go wash your hands and call your sister.”

* * *

Next door at the Farmer farm, Susannah’s mother looked sad and tired too.

“What’s the matter, Mom?” Susannah asked.

“If we don’t get some work done on that van soon, it’s going to break down entirely!” Mom sighed and rubbed the back of her neck. “After I delivered those wreaths to Lilies of the Field, it took me fifteen minutes to get it started again. So when I went to get gas, I had to leave the engine running, and that’s dangerous!”

“Didn’t Mr. Patterson pay you for the wreaths that sold last week?”

“Yes, but it was only enough to pay the telephone bill. As it is, I don’t see how we’re going to buy groceries this week.”

“Oh well,” Matt put in, “we have plenty of goat’s milk!”

Susannah grinned. “Too much goat’s milk! And there are still lots of fruits and vegetables downstairs. I’ll go see what we can have for supper.” She climbed down the narrow cellar steps to the shelves filled with gleaming glass jars she had helped Mom can last fall. There were green beans, squash, and tomatoes from the garden, applesauce and pears and peaches from the orchard—they wouldn’t starve! Looking at the jars, Susannah whispered, “Thank You, Jesus, for our garden. Could You please help us get the van fixed?”

After supper, while she and Matt were washing dishes, Susannah heard a knock at the door. “Solly! Come right in,” she heard Mom say.

Solly came into the kitchen. “You’re washing dishes! Can I help?”

Susannah and Matt stared at him. “You want to do dishes?”

“Yeah! At my house, the housekeeper does them. Anyway, there’s a dishwasher. I think it’s fun to wash them by hand.”

“Wow! Well . . . sure . . . you can help,” Matt said, while Susannah giggled.

As they finished up, Solly told them about his mother’s problem. “I think the mud is pretty ugly myself,” he explained. “And Papa said he wishes we had a yard instead of a sea of mud. But with Mother, it’s different. She needs her garden, especially on a bad day.” The others looked questioningly at him. “She’s a special cancer doctor, and sometimes her patients get worse. She comes home so sad. Sometimes,” Solly looked sad himself as he polished a dish that was already dry, “sometimes one of them dies. Then Mother sits for a long time in her garden. I think she prays there. It helps her feel better.”

Susannah turned and looked at her mother. ”Mom, you could design their garden, couldn’t you?”

“Oh, I don’t know—” Mom began.

“Do you design gardens?” Solly asked excitedly.

“She did all of ours by herself,” Susannah told him proudly.

“Yes, but—” Mom sputtered.

Solly wasn’t listening. “May I use your phone?”

In no time, it seemed, Solly’s mother had come to see the Farmers’ gardens and talk about her ideas. Mom was still hesitant. “I don’t do anything fancy.”

“Your gardens are exactly what I want!” Dr. El-Charif exclaimed. “Will you try it? I will pay you what I would have paid the other designer.” She named the other designer’s fee, and Mom fell silent in shock. “Please! You would be an answer to prayer!” Dr. El-Charif said.

“I’ll—I’ll try. If you don’t like it, you must be sure to tell me so. In the meantime, please feel free to come and sit in my garden any time you like.”

Solly and Susannah looked up at the cloudy, gray sky. “Thank You!” they said at the same time. Then they looked at each other and laughed.

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