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It was early afternoon, a few weeks ago. The lioness, March, was tossing the clouds about in the sky and the carts in the parking lot as well. I hurried my steps, pushing into the wind. My destination was the pharmacy inside the grocers where a prescription awaited me.

Ah yes, dear friends, the grocery store where many of my meaningful conversations happen.

I grabbed a cart and walked down the seasonal aisle; green shamrock napkins blending with jellybean eggs and enough bunnies for a year’s worth of Rabbit Rabbit days. As a voice behind me said  “Do NOT look to the right. I’m not buying any of this.“a multi-colored, twinkling ball bounced past me. “Good luck with that” I said as we both headed to pharmacy.

The mother and I chatted as we waited our turn in line. The daughter, who looked about 10, held her doll close as she built her case for “needing” the magic, glowing ball. Children are good at this; tenacious in their determination to get what they want. In my grandmotherly attempt to turn the girl’s attention to something else, I told her that her doll must be special to her and I mentioned that it was a big doll. The child stood the doll on the ground and said “She’s not big. Look how small she is“.  From this young girl’s perspective, the doll wasn’t all the big, and I concurred.

The mother, whose hands now were filled with a box of bandages and ibuprofen, asked her daughter if she would please go back to get a shopping cart. As the girl turned to go back down the aisle of all things seasonal and needed, she handed her doll to her mom.

The mother looked at me, holding the doll, and said, quietly “Thank you for being so kind to her. She loves this doll and takes it everywhere. Not everyone understands.”  She talked about her daughter’s challenges, showed me all the bandages on the doll’s face and explained that her daughter changed the bandages almost every day,  slept with the doll, the doll came with on errands and went to church with her.

Soon enough, I heard a cart bump into a shelf. A few extra “needed” things thrown in. “Wow. You found a few toys!” I said as the mom took the cart and handed the doll back to her daughter, mouthing “thank you” as the moved ahead in the line. I winked and said “ thank YOU” back.

We learn much from children, if we take the time. Tenacity and patience, love and acceptance. Caring and serving others. This young girl had some developmental challenges, and a heart as big as Mr. Rodgers. She reminded me that we all must love each other – just as we are.

Her doll’s name was Chucky.

 

Image of Chucky from walmart. com

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There I was, on the top of my tippy toes, a would-be heroine of the supermarket, brandishing the largest roll of Reynolds Wrap – surely the only thing in the store older than me. With my signature scarlet red overcoat (of Toots fame) and my ballerina flats, I hoisted my box of foil in an attempt to slay a box of Saran Wrap on the very top shelf.

There was a younger man – a fit-as-a-fiddle power shopper reading the label of something or other, a last-minute purchaser on Christmas Eve day. The store with aisles crammed with eleventh hour shoppers for that one ingredient needed. He seemed oblivious to my to-and-fro lunges as I leapt across the aisle with my weapon of choice in pursuit of the one item I needed.

On the very top shelf (isn’t it always so?), in the very back of said shelf were two rolls of the plastic wrap I needed. One on top of the other, as far back as possible and quite impossible for me to reach. I made room on the very bottom shelf to step upon, but, really? me? I don’t do well on any steps, let alone the very bottom shelf of everything and anything used in food storage.

I reconnoitered, looked helpless and hopeless, but, no one seemed to notice me, especially the fit-as-a-fiddle shopper, who seemed oblivious to my plight. He was at least six feet tall. What WAS he reading?

I uttered an “oh bother“, then proclaimed “en garde” as I leapt upward in a determined maneuver to pry the sticky wrap down, only to be bombarded with parchment paper and snack sized plastic bags. A squeaky wheeled cart snuck past and then a kiddie-cart whose diminutive driver actually looked up at me.

“One more try” said I to self. I lunged once more – then heard a sweet voice say “let me help you“. I looked down to the see the softest beige coat with hair to match gazing up at me. Not more than an inch taller, she said “We short people have to help each other out. Let me get that for you. ” – and she did. She reached WAY up and she nailed it. Really. She had these perfectly polished long nails and nailed it! She handed me the plastic wrap, I thanked her, wished her a Merry Christmas – and she drove out of sight.

Am I the only one who has such adventures at the grocery store?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Prc8zLJO83I

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Winter has settled in, with cold and snow and slush and mittens and with all the beauty and the bother that winter in the midwest brings. So it was that I finally took out my bright red coat to wear to the grocery store. I love red coats. This one fits me perfectly, has weathered many cold days, and is easy to find among all the blacks and blues of winter warmth.

As I buttoned up for my first fire-engine red warmth of the season, I remembered the last time I wore this coat, late in last winter’s season, and to the very same grocery store I was headed to.

On that blustery March day, after checking out, my shopping cart laden with food and flowers (which I can’t resist), I headed to my car, pushing the cart through the slush of winter. Suddenly, a voice called out “Hey, Toots, I like your coat!“. I looked around and realized it was the man who gathers the shopping cars to bring in. I will call him Chuck.

Chuck is a friendly chap who talks to everyone and never seems to be at a loss for words. He always talks to me, whether about the flowers in my cart, the sleek sports car that just pulled out of a space, how to make spare ribs (when he bags groceries) and just about anything else. Chuck is a hard worker, enthusiastically directs traffic while gathering carts and is a good soul. He always has something to tell  me, though this was the first time he called me “Toots“.

“Thank you. It is a warm coat and I can always find it” I answered, as he took my cart to add to his growing line-up. “I like it” Chuck repeated. Then, just as another shopper passed by, Chuck proclaimed, with all the gusto of a March wind, “Your coat reminds me of my red drawers! I like to wear them all the time, too!” 

I always enjoy random conversations, especially at the grocery store. Chuck meant his words as a compliment and I took them as such, as did the Antler Man who occasionally calls me Toots when he knows I’m headed off to Chuck’s store. I’m actually headed there now.  I wonder if Chuck will notice my glare resistant glasses (and I wonder if they will work). I hope he doesn’t mention my coat.

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I grabbed a numbered ticket from the dispenser then bobbed to and fro like a robin looking for a worm. I was perusing the long deli case to see what was on sale, what looked good, what I shouldn’t eat, etc. Low numbered grazers took their places close to the counter, while shoppers like me, in for a dozen or so numbers,  stepped back. Shopping carts were parked near the olive island or over by the cheese section where samples were set out.

We needed sliced turkey. We don’t go in for the fancy stuff; no mesquite or honey glazed for us, though they are tempting choices, especially when shopping hungry.

I stood, rocking from foot to foot, checking my ticket stub in case I forgot my number (it happens). I mentally selected my turkey choice. I remember when there were only a few choices of turkey to choose from. Actually, I remember when there were no choices of turkey to choose from, but, I digress.

Another shopper and I struck up a conversation. We both liked the store, the cashiers, the floral department – a good place to shop. She asked my opinion of Lacey Swiss cheese and we noted how busy it was for the time of day.

Talk. Chit chat. Two ladies waiting for thin slice or thick.

Our trail of words turned a corner to Brie. Had I tried the Brie in the cheese section? It was, she said, outstanding, and that she wanted to go over and thank the attendant cheesemonger who had given her a sample last time she was in, which she did right then and there.

My deli companion then told me she was a caretaker for an elderly woman. The woman’s best friend had just passed away. She was terribly sad. Upon tasting the brie, my deli companion said she put some in her cart, along with some apricot jam and specialty crackers and brought them as a treat, a small indulgence, for her charge – and that made all the difference in the woman’s day and in her demeanor.

My number came up.

I waved my ticket like a banner and stepped forward, but, first I gave my kind deli companion a little hug and thanked her. Such chance encounters often become a balm for my soul; reminders of the simple things that make life a wee bit sweeter in sour times. Brie and crackers, thanking the cheesemonger, just taking the time to chat –  a simply remarkable slice of time at the deli counter.

How about you? Any chance encounters that soothed your soul recently?

 

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p Martha Walter (American Impressionist, 1875–1976) Town Meeting, Brittany

Ah . . .

. . .  those conversations in the checkout lane of the grocery store, whilst crossing paths in a parking lot, picking up clothes at the cleaners, sitting on a bench in a park, checking out a library book. These random conversations brighten my days and give me pause to ponder.

Take Thursday, for instance; a red-letter day for off-the-cuff conversations.

It started at the doctor’s office in the large center for health I go to for medical care, with easy access to labs, physical therapy, procedures, etc. I have happily graduated from a B12 shot every week to once a month. I am grateful for my doctor who dug a little deeper and found a deficiency. I am  even more grateful for the remedy, not to mention my friend, Marilyn, who recommended this internist. The medical center is connected to a hospital that wraps around a substantial campus. I usually take a brisk walk when I’m there. It is amazing how many steps can be accrued, for those of us who count steps, and especially nice in winter or inclement weather.

I digress.

After my appointment, I found a chair in the hallway and sat down to turn on my cell phone and check messages. As I sat there, a man turned the corner, a big smile on his face He looked at me. He had tears in his eyes along with that big smile as he blurted out “I just have to tell someone. I am so blessed. I just found out I don’t have prostate cancer!”  He was overwhelmed with relief, an emotion I know well enough.  I got up, acknowledged his news and feelings, and we headed to the elevator, where he had kind things to say to all of the passengers riding down to the main floor. He thanked me for listening as we parted ways.

We are sometimes put in just the right place to accept others good news.

I embarked on my hospital corridor walk-about, and then stopped in the gift shop. A rather robust woman, colorfully attired, caught my eye and she said “You really look good today. Very modernly dressed. Good color on you.” Well, now, how about that! I stood a little taller, edged my shoulders back, and thanked her profusely. Such kindness from a stranger gave me a bigger boost than a B12 shot!

We are sometimes put in just the right place to accept the generosity of others.

Heading home, I needed a few things from the grocer; fruit, greens, a can of tomatoes for the evening meal; items I thought I had in the pantry, but, discovered that I did not. I pushed my cart, picking up some coffee and a loaf of Italian bread as well as the items I came for and walked to the cashiers. A young man was standing at his register with no one waiting in line, so, I altered that scene, placing my purchases on the conveyor belt. As I wrote my check (I know. I’m a dinosaur. I still write checks) I asked the young man what the date was. He told me then said he couldn’t wait until Sunday. “A special day for you?”  “Yes. My birthday and now I won’t have to bother anyone anymore“. I thought, by his looks, that he was turning 21 and looking forward to a celebratory night out. “Happy Birthday, enjoy – and you be careful” to which he retorted “Oh, I have to work on Sunday. I’m just happy I won’t have to call for a legal aged checker to ring up liquor anymore“.

We are sometimes put in just the right place to be reminded to not jump to conclusions.

How about that?

Have you had a chance conversation lately over a cup of coffee, waiting in line,

Image. Town Meeting by Martha Walter

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2_Abraham_Leon_Kroll_American_artist_1884_1974_The_ConversationIs there anything more satisfying than solving the world’s problems with one’s hands cradling a warm cup of traveling steam – and whatever floats inside it?

I am one of the fortunate ones. I have friends and family who are ready and often waiting for a good sit-down chat, whether it be at the kitchen table, in a coffee shop, lunch in a quiet restaurant, or on the ether pages in this modern world.

I think, these days, with family and friends oftentimes far away, or too busy to catch their breaths, that the internet has become a virtual clothesline. We hang our laundry up to dry and hope that, perhaps, a neighbor or two will wander by for a spell while we clip the clothespins on.

While I am writing, I often have a cup of tea or a mug of coffee at my side, and I think about you, dear reader. Do you read with a favored cuppa nearby? Are you in business attire, your pajamas, a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt? Do you chew on a cookie or a piece of fruit as you turn your virtual pages with a click that comes as sure as your next breath, traveling here and there around the blogosphere?

I am a “people person”. I love to strike up conversations with my best of friends – or the librarian checking out my latest read. You never know what you will learn on these verbal forays. For instance, the cashier at Walgreens, who recognizes me as the lady who sometimes comes in to buy their dollar molasses cookies, shared with me that a local fast food/ice cream stand purchases the very same cookies to make the ice cream sandwiches they sell. The gals and guys at the Jewel always take the time to ask how I am – and care.  Once, my address visible while paying with a check, a cashier asked me if I knew Jim and Connie who live on my street. Indeed, I did. It was their house we bought. I swear, if there had not been other customers in the queue,  we would be talking still about what nice people they are.

Well, the kettle is whistling and I need to ice my old knee, so, I guess it is time to stop.

Thank you, forever and always, for wandering by for a spell. I always enjoy our chats.

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