After my junior year of high school, my mom and I went college shopping in the Midwest. We visited schools in Indiana, Illinois and Michigan, but before we got to Michigan, we found ourselves worn out one humid, stifling afternoon at Union Station in Chicago.
If I remember correctly, we were eating lunch, hydrating, and trying to figure out where our travels would take us next. The conversation turned to Michigan State University, and a woman at a neighboring table turned around and said something like, “Oh, do you go there?”
The three of us ended up chatting for a while, and my mom remembers that she was a single lady with a son who was going to college here in California. She was apparently very active, as she was often going on bicycling tours around Michigan, traveling here, gallivanting there.
We’d been on the road for Lord-knows-how-many-days (looking back, it seems like we were scoping out campuses for the better part of a month, although that wasn’t the case), and she had taken a genuine interest in our journey, in what we thought of the different schools, and just generally in our story. Her name was Glenda.
Before I knew it, she was offering us a place to stay when we got to the Lansing area: her condo. She was going to be there and, despite her being a complete stranger, in our minds it apparently beat staying in another motel and foraging for food in parts of the country we had no knowledge of. Maybe it was the heat that lowered our guard, but we accepted.
Fast-forward a day or so — I really can’t remember how much time had passed since meeting her in the food court of Union Station. We spoke with Glenda on the phone, and it turned out she wasn’t going to be in town after all. No matter — she said she would “leave the key under the mat” for us.
Who does that?
Suddenly, things seemed fishy to me. I was suspicious. Would we be the only ones with a key, aside from her? Do others have a key? Were we about to enter the greater-Midwest crash-pad, open to all, shunning none? Once we entered her condo, would someone leap out from behind a ficus and steal our rented Plymouth Acclaim? Thoughts tumbled and careened from one absurd notion to another in my head. But then the humidity took hold, and we were on our way.
We drove to Glenda’s condo and, sure enough, found the key under the mat. The condo was tidy as can be, no cabinets were padlocked and there were no safes housing valuables. She was clearly trusting of us, so I wondered if I should simply reciprocate.
I noticed she had made a large batch of lemon-poppyseed muffins which, for a split second, I scrutinized and wondered if they were safe to eat. Then my hunger got the best of me and I scarfed one. I didn’t even bother sniffing it first, as any good sleuth would do.
So I scarfed another.
And then my initial suspicions were confirmed: I knew she was a truly kind stranger.
Glenda came to mind earlier this evening. Her name came to me completely out of the blue, and I did a quick search for her to see if she was still in the Lansing area. The moment I saw the address, I knew it was her. Same address, right around the corner from a restaurant she introduced us to, and which I frequented all through my undergrad and graduate time at MSU.
Tonight I am thankful for Glenda, and for the kind, honest, good-hearted angels-on-earth that seem to be so few and far between. We haven’t spoken for years, but I’m guessing there’s a reason she came to mind, and a reason that I feel the strong desire to send her a card and say hello…so I will, perhaps along with a batch of lemon-poppyseed muffins, just for old time’s sake.