I heard her before I saw her. I was loading groceries into the back of my car as she approached, the wheels of her little shopping cart squeaking and squealing.
”Looks like snow” she said. I nodded, I was tired and had more errands to do and didn’t want to get into a conversation.
”Busy, busy, busy” she said as she got closer. I turned and stopped what I was doing. She was beautiful. Her smile was wide and open. Her eyes twinkled. She was impeccably dressed. Very pulled together as my Nana would have said.
Her shopping cart was full; it looked like it weighed more than she did.
“Do you need help?” I asked. “No, not at all” she responded. “I live right there”. She pointed toward the senior housing complex across from the shopping center. “It’s run by the church you know” she said and rolled her eyes. I laughed. “Are they any good at running a building?” I asked. She laughed even more, “what do you think?” she said.
We chatted for a bit about this and that – the cost of food, the Pope, the way people drive too fast at the crossing.
”I sound like an old lady” she suddenly exclaimed. I told her she didn’t sound or look like an old lady.
”I’m 92” she said proudly. My face must have really shown how shocked I was because she laughed out loud. “Do I look good for 92 or are you amazed that I’m still ticking?” she asked as she continued to laugh.
”Look good for 92! You look good for 62”
”I was a dancer you know. I was part of the Polish Dance Company back when I lived up north. Those were great days. I worked for a publishing firm for 38 years. After work I went to practice and on the weekends we did shows all over the state. And I would go to the dance clubs on Friday and Saturday nights. Those were the days”
“You move like a dancer” I told her. “You’re so graceful”.
The twinkle in her eye really danced as she asked “are you sure it’s the way I move, or is it my Chanel?”
“It is a Chanel” I said as though I had just uncovered a great secret. “It is, it’s an original tote bag. I’ve had it forever. Everything about me says forever”.
“Good taste and class are timeless” I said and then immediately thought I sounded patronizing.
“Oh thank you! You’re a dear girl”. I love being called a girl and she could see that I was delighted.
”Not many people stop for me” she said, “I’ve had a wonderful time talking to you”
She said she had a pot of soup waiting for her at home. She made soup from scratch twice a week and froze it. “Nothing like a good bowl of soup to warm the bones” she told me as she started to walk away.
I watched her until she crossed the road and was safely on the walk to her building.
This first meeting was back in January. I see her often now. We chat. She calls me dear or sweetheart. She introduced me to some of the other ladies from the building. One of them remembered that I had helped her when her cart broke.
“She’s a good girl” my Chanel toting friend said proudly. “You can always tell the good ones”.
Yesterday I passed their building and had to stop as there was a bus blocking the intersection. A long line of the ladies were boarding the bus for a trip to a Broadway show. I watched with amusement as the driver across from me bounced around in her seat looking annoyed. I rolled down my window and called out “have a great time, don’t get into too much trouble”
As the bus pulled up to clear the intersection I heard the ladies laughing and my heart felt good.