Dropped off the drycleaning this afternoon.
I’ve been going to this one place for years, and the middle-aged woman who runs it always whips out that slip and writes down Hyde, A before I even say anything.
We bonded forever over the moment where, early 0n after I’d made it–
–okay, back up. Twenty-three years ago, when I was newly back into knitting as an antidote to all that my new lupus diagnosis threatened, after I got the use of my hands back after the first six months of the disease, I knitted my husband an aran. A big, cream, woolly, cabled aran. An aran with sleeves that he could fold the cuffs back on, a luxury in his eyes that had forever been denied him because of his height. This is what happens when you have to duck through doorways.
Most people are fingertip-t0-fingertip the same measurement as their height.
Back then, I didn’t trust myself to handwash a wool sweater without wrecking it, especially not after all that work (now I wouldn’t bat an eye) and I took that aran with the 78″ wingspan to that new-to-me-then drycleaner. I told her not to block it, having been warned (I think by my mom) that they would press all that glorious cablework flat forever otherwise.
Several years later, he’d worn it enough that it seemed time to get it cleaned again.
“Oh, *I* remember THIS sweater! she exclaimed, holding it out to her own arms’ length, which was a whole lot less than his–or mine, for that matter. She admired it, exclaimed over it, and oh! You MADE it?!
I never forgot that moment and I bet she didn’t either.
There was somebody new working with her today, and my friend whose name I somehow never found out seemed scattered and pulled in too many directions. Helping the kid back there with something he was asking her about, rushing back to me, finding out that no, those weren’t my shirts, oh, right, those were…she’d forgotten..she swept them into a bag and out of the way, apologizing, while I smiled, no, no, no problem.
She took a breath. All her attention was now on me. My husband’s suit? Monday, alright?
Is it possible to have it rushed by Saturday?
She was momentarily distracted and glancing away just then while trying hard not to be–but she had to–!
It was okay. Meantime, the new helper did not fall but inched ever so slowly, steadily closer, coming up on the left, holding tight to a laundry cart that suddenly seemed to need rubber stops on one side of the bottom just in case.
Saturday is fine; thank you very much!
She had to ask me my name, and that was a complete tipoff as to how overwhelmed she was feeling.
The woman I am guessing was her mother got ever so much closer to the counter on her slow way forward, her body so bowed that she could barely lift her head enough to make eye contact.
But you make eye contact with the customer and you greet them and she was determined.
And so this very tiny woman of about 90 whom I had never seen before at last looked me eye to eye and found me smiling. She raised one hand from the cart in cautious slow motion and carefully, gently, waved hi to me, and then her face blossomed into a smile at our shared sense of success.
She completely made my day. I will never forget it.
Darrin Bell wrote recently of taking care of his 94-year-old grandfather in his final weeks and what it was like to be with someone he loved so close to the other side, and in his comic strip he quoted his grandfather as saying, everything you do in life, you’ve got to be at your best.
I felt privileged to share a moment with a woman of about his grandfather’s age who was showing me how to do exactly that.
And I think, when I take the drycleaner slip back on Friday for the pickup, I will take a copy of this post in thanks. (Ed. to add–wait, I don’t want her to feel she’s lost face on the name thing; I’ll just tell them thank you.)
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