Did you have that one neighbor? The one who became the surrogate mother to all the kids in the neighborhood? I did and she was a wonderful woman named, Pearl Cook.
The grown-ups called her, Cookie. Mrs. Cook walked really fast and stood around four foot four, but she was a powerhouse and all the kids respected her.
I remember when I got my first bike and my mom only allowed me to ride it on the sidewalk. I was allowed to ride down to the red house, which was just two homes down from mine. After I got older and a little steadier, she would let me ride to Mrs. Cook’s house, which was six houses down. I was hyped because I really liked Mrs. Cook and wanted to show her my riding skills. Every time I would go to her house and turn in her drive-way, she would come out to cheer and encourage me. Although I was riding on my own, I wasn’t very good turning it around. Occasionally, the bike would tip over and I would go tumbling down with it, right in Mrs. Cook’s driveway.
Disgusted and scraped up, Mrs. Cook would pick me up, hug me and wipe my tears. She would then sit me on her step and go into her house to retrieve what I thought was a magic box. I later figured out her magic box was a first aid kit, but back then, I could’ve sworn it was a magic box she had concocted. Mrs. Cook always assured me, that she would never hurt me and guess what, she was right. Every time Mrs. Cook finished cleaning me up, I felt better.
Mrs. Cook was musically inclined and because of this, she formed a neighborhood youth choir. All the kids in the neighborhood who wanted to join were welcomed. After learning the songs, we would perform them at her church. Of course, she put me right in with the others singing second soprano. Although she probably doesn’t know, being in her choir really helped me. When I went to high school and had to choose an elective, I chose choir. Because of being in Mrs. Cook’s choir I already knew I could do it; being in the choir gave me a chance to meet other classmates and form lifelong bonds.
Mrs. Cook even taught me about the gift of kindness. Every year she’d pass out banana-nut bread during the holiday season to all the families in the neighborhood. Now, any time I see banana-nut bread, I think of her and how she changed my life.
Mrs. Cook is a gem and there are not many like her in the world. She was a person who always encouraged me and she influenced my life greatly. I salute you Mrs. Cook. Thanks for being the great woman you are!