Early in January 1954, Mr. Guy Priest came to our house with a box of surprises.
Usually I saw Mr. Priest when I was skidding my bike around on Teft Road or Baker Street.
“Hello, Mr. Priest!”
Instead of waving, he smiled and nodded. That’s because his hands were busy with two 5-gallon pails stuffed with gladiolas in full bloom. Mr. Priest cut these beauties from the garden behind his house on Baker Street, and he was delivering them to customers.
No flowers, but a box
This January day, however, Mr. Priest carried no flowers. Instead he brought a box of surprises. I needed surprises, because the doctor had sent me to bed for many days to allow some bones to mend.
Mr. Priest’s box was cardboard, like the box my new shoes came in from the store in Jackson. But a wrap of heavy white paper hid the J.C. Penny logo, and it was larger than my shoe box. Maybe it once held a pair of boots.
Each day a new surprise
On all four sides, from under the lid, numbered tags dangled on strings. Mr. Priest told me to pull tag #1. I pulled, and out came a tiny plastic car. He said tomorrow I should pull tag #2 and the next day #3. The number of tags equaled the number of days I had to stay in bed.
So each day I tugged at a new tag, and out came a new surprise — a toy compass, a magnifying glass, a pen, a 3×5 notepad, a plastic comb, a pocket mirror, a little tractor, etc.
Just a regular guy
His name really is Guy, and he was just a regular kind of guy.
I never guessed he could pick me out from the batch of kids playing tag on bikes. Yet here he was, standing beside my bed.
I never dreamed Mr. Priest might have once been a child himself. Yet his tags spoke the language of a 12-year-old. They glittered more brightly than the golden bells and pomegranates at the hem of Aaron’s robe.
I would not have picked Mr. Priest as our “Most Creative Neighbor.” We lived among merchants, missionaries, and college professors. Some told my parents how concerned they were for their injured child. Yet it took the imagination of a glad gardener to point a 12-year-old’s thoughts away from another long day in bed ─ toward today’s surprise.
That’s how I remember Mr. Priest, a regular kind of guy with a box of surprises.