Inspirational essays and articles, with a touch of humor, are a favorite topic for Ms. Giordano, a writer and public speaker.
This story is one of a series about people whom I have almost met. The stories are about chance encounters with someone that lasts only a brief minute or two, but makes an indelible impression. It’s about encounters that in a small way change my life.
The encounter is too brief for an exchange of names. We may speak or touch, but we haven’t really met—hence the title, “People Almost Met.”
It Was Time To Sell My House.
My only child, John, had moved out to be on his own the year before. I was living alone in a four bedroom house. It was time to downsize.
I got up early on yard sale day, set up the tables, and laid some blankets on the lawn. I had spent the previous few weeks collecting stuff that I did not want to take to my new house and putting it in the boxes.
I started emptying the boxes and putting the stuff out for sale. Old jewelry, handbags and belts went on one table. Household and kitchen items –baking sheets, plastic plates, extra pots and pans—went on another table. It’s amazing how much stuff can accumulate into every nook and cranny of a house. I was prepared to be ruthless. It all had to go.
As I placed the stuff out for sale, the memory of my first day in the new house came back to me.
John was only six years old. We drove from New Jersey to Virginia where we got on the Amtrak auto-train for the 24 hour ride to Florida. From there it was an hour drive to our new home in Orlando. For two days we would be camping out in our new house until the movers arrived with our furniture. As soon as we arrived, we put on our swimsuits and went out to the pool in our backyard. I was still marveling that, in Florida, even ordinary people could afford to have a pool.
John and I sat on the ledge of the pool. “Are we going to live here forever?” he asked.
“Maybe I will,” I said, “but you will grow up and move into a house of your own.”
“No,” he said. “I’m going to stay here and live with you forever.”
I laughed and said,. “From your lips to God’s ears.” He didn’t get the joke.
“I’m never going to leave you,” he said.
My Son Drove Up.
“I’ve come to help you,” he said.
He picked up a few of the now-empty boxes and disappeared into the house. He came back with the boxes filled. One box was filled with his books from Cat in the Hat to Goose Bumps to The Magic School Bus to Tom Sawyer. Even his Cub Scout manual.
Another box was filled with videos. From Grimm’s Fairy Tales to Aladdin to Air Bud to Superman.
The third box was packed with his collection of stuffed animals There was the green dinosaur that he got when he first arrived in the United States at the age of five, newly adopted from Guatemala. I saw the Lion King, the white Coca-Cola Bear, and a half dozen others. I remembered where and when he got each one.
There was the Toy Story cowboy marionette—my son had seen it in the window of the Disney store at the mall. He didn’t ask me to buy it, but the longing was evident in his eyes. We went into the store. It was too expensive. I bought it anyhow.
I sighed. ”He’s selling off his childhood.” I thought.
He’s not like me who can never bear to get rid of anything because everything has memories associated with it. Like my books. I have books from when I was in college. Why have I lugged them from home to home all these years. Am I going to read them again? No, probably not. But I remember reading them, and now they are like old friends lining my bookshelf wall reminding me of who I used to be.
I Spotted Max at the Top of the Pile.
Max was the stuffed terrier dog that I brought home from a business trip. (I always brought a present back when I had to go out of town for business to make it up to him for being away.) He loved that dog. He slept with it and carried him with him whenever we went out. He’d have taken it to school, but it was not allowed.
When he was new, Max looked very lifelike. Once when were in the supermarket—me, John, and Max—an assistant manager came over to us. "I'm sorry," she said, "You can't ..." Her voice trailed off when she realized it was only a stuffed animal and not a live puppy.
Max was once had a sprightly shade of caramel-colored "fur," but now he was a tattered brown and gray from being loved too much.
I pulled Max from the pile. “Not Max,” I said. “We can’t sell Max.” I brought Max back into the house.
The day went by. There were lots of customers and lots of things were sold. Towards the end of the day a family drove up, parked their car, got out, and began to look around. They were obviously Indian because the grandmother was dressed in a sari. There was a little girl about five years old, who I will call Aanya, and her mother and father. Aanya was very thin and small, very shy and quiet. She stayed close to her parents.
They looked around; but they didn’t buy anything. They turned away and were walking back to their car.
Aanya Spotted the Care Bear Called Love-A-Lot.
The Care Bears are a series of books and animated TV specials (and later a TV series) for kids. There are several different Care Bears in the family, each a different color with a different “tummy symbol” or “belly badge” to indicate the bear's duty and personality. This one was the one called Love-a-Lot. It had a two bright-red intertwined hearts on its chest.
Aanya impulsively picked up the bear and hugged it to her chest.
I went to the parents. “Just $2.” I said.
The father took the bear away from Aanya and put it back in the box. Aanya looked at Love-A-Lot longingly as her mother took her hand and gave it a little tug to make the girl leave.
“Just one dollar.” I said.
The father shook his head no. They started to leave again.
Aanya could not take her eyes off it as she was being pulled away.
“Wait,” I said.
I Took Love-A-Lot and Handed It to Aanya.
“For you,” I said to Aanya. She looked confused, but she hugged the bear.
“It’s free,” I said to the father.
“Free?” It was clear that no one in the family understood English very well.
“Yes. It’s a gift. I want you to have for free.”
The father nodded his assent and thanked me. Aanya hugged the bear to her chest. The family walked back to their car. I walked back to my chair.
I imagined that one day that Care Bear would be as bedraggled as my son’s stuffed terrier, worn away from too much love.
Just for fun:
Meet the Care Bears.
© 2015 Catherine Giordano