A little girl discovers that a reclusive old lady living next door is actually a child star from the fifties and becomes her friend and changes her lonely life.
May Ryder noticed their neighbor for the first time when she was just seven years old. There was something about the pretty old lady next door that seemed very familiar to May. She’d seen her face before, but where?
May asked her mom, and her mom told her that their neighbor was what people call a ‘recluse,’ someone who doesn’t like talking to other people or making friends. “That must be very lonely!” May said sadly. “I wonder if she never wants someone to talk to?”
Even though her mother told May to stay away from the neighbor, she couldn’t help keeping an eye out for her. The old lady would go to the shops at least once a week, and May made sure she was outside playing in the garden when she came home.
“Hello!” May would say. “How are you today?”
The first time the old lady stopped and stared at May. “Are you talking to me?” she asked in a rusty voice.
“Yes!” said May happily. “I wanted to say hi and invite you to tea!”
“I don’t drink tea,” said the old lady rudely. “And I don’t talk to strangers.”
“That only works when you’re the child,” May said reasonably. “I’m the kid so it’s OK for you to talk to me.”
“Well I don’t WANT to!” cried the old lady and marched into her house and slammed the door behind her. But of course, her rejection only made May more determined to be her friend and find out why the old lady was locking the world out.
May started watching the old lady even more closely, and one day she even sneaked up to her porch and peeked in her window. She couldn’t believe her eyes! The old lady’s house was full of strange and wonderful things!
May was cupping her hands around her face to see better through the dusty glass when she felt something touching her shoulder. She screamed and fell down. She looked up and saw the old lady glaring down at her.
“What are you doing you little sneak?” the old lady snarled, and May started crying, big fat tears running down her cheeks. A transformation came over the old lady’s face. “Oh, no!” she said. “Please, please don’t cry! I just wanted to frighten you…”
Money and fame may be nice but the most precious things we have are love and friendship.
The old lady got May to her feet and gave her a big hug. “I’m so sorry! I’m a crotchety old soul and I’ve become nasty! Please forgive me!”
May was getting over her fright and she whispered, “Why are you nasty? I just wanted to be friends!”
The old lady sighed. “I guess I feel that if I care about people, if I have friends, I’ll be hurt…”
May shook her head. “I won’t hurt you!” she promised.
“I know,” said the old lady. “I tell you what, why don’t you come in and have some cake and tea?” And so May walked into that mysterious house that no one had seen in over twenty years.
She couldn’t believe her eyes! All around her were big movie posters with photos of a pretty little girl around May’s age. “Giggles McKenzie in ‘The Littlest Princess'” they announced, or “Giggles McKenzie in ‘Circus Kid'”.
There were glass cases with photos of movie stars and beautiful costumes, all of them exactly May’s size! “WOW!” May gasped, “These are AWSOME! Everyone should see them!”
“Oh,” said the old lady waving her hand, “Nobody cares anymore!”
“Yes they do!” said May. “There’s a big Giggles McKenzie fan club online, you know, and reruns and revivals! Kids even dress up like her for Halloween!”
The old lady’s mouth hung open. “They do? Really? I can’t believe it…” And then she smiled and immediately May recognized her.
“It’s you! You’re Giggles McKenzie, child-star of stage and screen!”
“I was,” said the old lady sadly. “Now I’m just Gail McKenzie, old forgotten and very lonely.”
“You didn’t get married?” asked May. “Or have babies?”
“I did,” said Gail. “But my husband died and then my little daughter got sick and she died too. Being a star and having money didn’t help me then.”
“But you don’t have to be all alone, you know!” said May. “I can be your friend, and I bet a lot of kids would love to see all your wonderful stuff too!”
Gail smiled and looked like Giggles again. “You think so? I don’t know… This is all such a mess, and so dusty!”
“My mom would help us!” said May enthusiastically, “And imagine, you could have your own museum!”
The next day, Gail and May and May’s mom started getting Gail’s house in order, clean, neat, and dust-free. Before long, everyone knew that Gail was really the famous Giggles McKenzie, and kids were lining up around the block to meet her and see her amazing memorabilia.
The local TV network heard about it and they came to visit the house and interview Gail. They asked Gail what the most precious thing she had in the house was and were very surprised when Gail called May over.
She placed her arm around her little friend and said, “This is May, she is my precious and she taught me to value love and friendship again!”
What can we learn from this story?
Life can sometimes bring hard trials and bitter disappointments, but we should never give up on love. Gail had locked herself away from pain, but she ended up opening up her heart again to a sweet little girl.
Money and fame may be nice but the most precious things we have are love and friendship. Gail discovered that money and fame were no protection from tragedy, but love heals all wounds.
Share this story with your friends. It might brighten their day and inspire them.