Louise and I picked 60 pounds of apples last week, and the sauce was starting to bubble on the stove. I realized I needed more canning jars (where do they all go??) and made a trip to Fred Meyer. Typical for a Saturday morning, it was bustling.
I slowly made my way along the aisles and listened as the chatter in my head picked up. Did I want to give to a smoker? Would I never give to a smoker? Someone with THAT much beer in their cart? Isn’t that high-octane beer? That woman making a selection from the olive bar must have plenty of discretionary income, right? I found myself making all kinds of assumptions about the young families (white, well-dressed kids snacking on organic fruit rolls: they’re doing just fine).
One youngish mother caught my eye but then I noticed that her cart was full of chips and soda and I kept moving. I said hello to the woman passing out samples of cake to a small crowd and realized I wanted a little bit of privacy for myself and the recipient.
I found the jars I needed and got into the checkout line. It was moving slowly. The woman with the high-octane beer got into the line behind me and I sadly noted that the only other item in her cart was white bread.
Then I noticed the woman staffing the Playland area, where parents can drop their kids off while they shop. A large, cheerful middle-aged woman, she was talking to everyone who walked by in between checking on the two kids who were there. With all the smiling and laughing she was doing, it looked like she didn’t have a care in the world.
You never know, I reminded myself. I got to the cash register just as I saw a mom pick up one of the kids at Playland. The cashier asked me, “Did you find everything you were looking for?” and I wondered what he would say if I told him I was looking for someone to give $100 to. I finished checking out and went over to the Playland counter.
The woman said hello, gave me a big smile and looked down over the counter. “Do we have a little one here?”, she asked. “No”, I said, “I just wanted to talk to you for a minute.” “Okay”, she said. Then I launched into the spiel I’d been practicing in the checkout line: “This might sound kind of strange.” “Okaaaayyy”, she said, and her eyes opened just a little wider. “I’m giving some gifts in honor of my mother and I would really like you to have this.” I handed her the $100 bill and gave her a big smile and started to edge away. “Wait a minute! You’re giving some gifts?” She looked puzzled and then looked down at what was in her hand and said, “Oh, my god. Give me your hand! I’m gonna cry.” She took my hand and we both got teary-eyed. I told her again that I was honoring my mother; that she had died not long ago and had left me an unexpected gift. “So you’re just passing it on and blessing others. Wow. Wow. You don’t know, you just don’t even know.” Then she told me that she didn’t have a single dollar in her wallet. She and her husband had both been paid the day before and had spent every last penny on their bills. “I drove here on fumes. I was just thinking how I had to call my mama and ask to borrow $10. Thank you so much!” She held onto my hand for what seemed like a long time and we just looked at each other.
I don’t even remember walking to the car, but I sat there for a while feeling flooded with gratitude.
My applesauce is finished. It tastes especially sweet.