It started with a wave and smile.
Coming home from school, in passing moments I’d wave and smile to my neighbors on Main Street. Louis (or “Jack” as he goes by to avoid confusion with his wife) and Louise Acernese would wave and smile back at me. Sometimes I’d sit with them and chat. Jack – usually seen with a fat cigar in his mouth – and his high school sweetheart Louise would sit out on their porch. Louise would reminisce and tell me stories about how Pittston used to be, and Jack, puffing on his cigar, would silently nod in agreement.
My stepdad knows them better than I do, affectionately referring to them as “Grandpa and Grandma.” During the winter when snowfall would tumble and bury the streets and sidewalk, he’d send guys who worked for him over to shovel their driveway. I know this because Louise told me, emphasizing how grateful she was. It wasn’t a big deal for my stepdad, but it made all the difference to Jack and Louise.
A week after graduation, my cap and gown were put away. All the celebratory feelings were put aside, but that changed when my stepdad yelled from downstairs, “Chris! Grandpa is looking for you!” Huh? It took a second for me to realize that he was talking about Jack. When I raced downstairs I saw him - puffing away on his cigar as usual, except this time with a white envelope in hand. “Congratulations,” he told me, not one for words, but that’s all he needed to say for me to hug him and smile in response.
I didn’t think graduating was a big deal. It just felt like the necessary thing to do, but now whenever I look at my cap and gown tucked away in my drawer, there’s a card reminding me that I have every right to feel proud of myself because of the people in my life who are proud of me.
Sometimes it’s the little things in life that make all the difference. When you think you’re in this alone, just know there’s a card waiting to be written with your name on it. You don’t have to look far; in fact, sometimes it’s right next door.