Today I took a two mile hike to Longs Drug Store with my sister, L. I felt so economical and camper-like as I bought only what I could stuff in two plastic bags for the walk home: Macaroni, coffee, roll-on, hairspray and detangler.
To be truthful, until I met Rex, my outdoors adventures consisted mostly of walking from the parking lot to a hotel room. From my few hikes with my husband, however, I retained a few bits of key knowledge. 1. Don't pee over a cactus. 2. Wave at fellow passerbyers. I always found that one odd. They could be buck naked eating granola and carrying a chimp, but you'd still shine that good ol' pal smile and nod a, "how's it going, man?" (Of course, inside you're like "I'll tell you how it's going... it's time you get some pants on, monkey boy.")
My point: we walked past an older lady and said, yes, you guessed it, "how's it going?" at which she gave us a half-hour of details, including an offer to come in for coffee. We declined, but hung around a while anyway outfront near her geraniums.
I suppose I should have been irritated, but there's something in me that could have stood in that hot sun, groceries in hand, and chatted with her for three more hours about her life in Canada, her trek to Houston, her years as a widow in Westlake, and how she raised a boy who grew up to be a neurosurgeon. As it turns out, she even worked in her son's office for a while as a secretary. I threw in, "Oh, so if someone asked you about how tough your job was, did you answer 'It isn't brain surgery'... Oh, wait, it actually is..." At which my sister burst out laughing but Sarah didn't crack a smile. Having a doctor in the family is apparently serious business. I used to joke that we had an M.D. in the family, too. But my father being Manic Depressive wasn't the kind of PhD you bragged to the neighbors about. Although if anyone talked about it, it was my dad himself, with his cheery, off handed way.
In fact, if Melvin had met Sarah, I'm sure he would have taken her up on the offer to enter the house, found out the name of her Temple, told some rabbi joke and planned an Elder Hostile trip with her community center group.
Later today I went grocery shopping at Costco, first stopping at the crowded snack stand ($1.50 for a hotdog and soda... how can you beat it? Now I'm not saying I did, but I'm not saying I didn't have a Diet Coke.) I shared a table with an older man who I apparently made nervous, because although he said I could sit there, he was holding onto his cane for dear life and making furtive glances to the diaper aisle.
Tonite we had people over for hamburgers while my kids ran around like fools, reminding me of those long summer nights of staying too late in the pool and curling up in a warm towel on my mom's lap while she talked to Esther and David.
Maybe this is why I stop and talk to the Sarah's of the world. Why I force my way into old people's tables at busy warehouse food chains. Why I love bbqs and get togethers and traditions. For all the madness in the world, there's value in connection. It's the warm towel on a cool night that assures us that it's okay to sit still, and feel someone else's heart, and listen to someone else's dreams.
Good night, and in the name of memories, Happy Memorial Day everyone.