“I drive around the block every night before I head to work,” Edward says, forearms resting on his back gate. “I check on your house too. Make sure everything’s okay over there.”
I try to think of what we did to deserve our own nightshift-working guardian angel who happens to live down the alley and monitors our block while we sleep, but I come up empty.
“I appreciate it,” Husband says, his head bobbing.
“What would we do without you?” And this time when I say it, it’s not a rhetorical question.
Edward’s eyes glow, and the back door of his house swings open. His wife Marie steps out and saunters toward us, a smile splashed on her face.
I exchange a hug with the woman who gave me her grandmother’s ceramic bowls—and warm memories of her whenever I eat soup from them. Before those dishes, though, she gave us something even better: her daughter, whose presence improved our basketball court out back. For years, the sight of that kid’s pump fakes and dribble drives, as she played with at least six other teenagers on our driveway, made my heart clench. In those days, Marie gave all the neighborhood kids stern warnings about practicing manners while they shot hoops at our place too. And my heart squeezes even now.
But we have to leave.
“We’ll have you guys over for pizza,” Husband says for the umpteenth time, even though jobs usually trample our intentions when we pull out our calendars. But hope and pizza live together in our North Minneapolis neighborhood, so here we go again.
One summer day, Marie calls, telling me she’s got something for me. She drops off the present—a black garbage bag filled with overripe bananas—on my porch. She rescued the fruit, destined for the dumpster, from her workplace, because why should it all go to waste? I peel, slice, and zip the bananas into freezer bags for their cold sleep. In the winter, I’ll do some baking with Marie’s gift and think of Edward and his watchful rounds night after night. And of course I’ll think of her, too, always finding ways to make our lives sweeter than banana bread.
We fire up the outdoor pizza oven on a rainy Monday, but Edward and Marie are working and can’t make it over for a slice this time either.
“Why don’t you put in your order?” I tell Marie. “We’ll make you a couple for you for after work. I don’t care how late it is.”
She laughs. “Okay. Sausage, green pepper, and mushrooms for me. Just meat—or whatever you’ve got—for Edward.”
Around ten o’clock that night, she pulls her car up to the curb in front of our house. I head outside, balancing one pizza pan on each palm. She jumps from her vehicle, meets me on the sidewalk, and hugs my middle because my hands are full.
“I would’ve delivered to your house, you know,” I say.
She laughs again. She’s appreciative, she says, but I think I feel it more. While pizzas are nice, I’ll take angels and bananas any day.