Tuesday, July 31, 2007

"I just had to hug her."

Billiards and Games
Originally uploaded by shubener
It's the Haywood Rd. Ingles on Tuesday night, where I stopped to replace my sour milk and replenish my supply of noodles for workday lunches. I like that Ingles, though it does have its shortcomings. I love the wide variety of people I see there. I guess it is just the diversity of the neighborhood the Ingles and I live in. There's mostly White, Black, and Latino shoppers, with all ages and economic levels represented. Every visit seems to be a slightly different clientele. One visit, it was every-single-woman-was-some-variety-of-hot night. There were the skinny young upscale fashionistas with their tight fitted skirts, high heels, and groovy glasses. And the punk torn jeans tats and piercings, with similar boyfriend attached at hip women. And the case of beer toting, untorn jeans and t-shirt women of various persuasions. Above you can see this Ingles in the background of this nice nighttime photo by Asheville photographer Scott Lessing.

Tonight it was pretty quiet, maybe because I got there earlier than usual. I was making my usual path through the store, picking up the staples. I was behind a quite older woman with nice lime sherbert colored pants. She was severely hunched over, from orthopedic challenges I imagine. She was moving slowly and in the middle of the aisle, so I got mildly frustrated a couple times. I got around her and went on my way, but somehow was behind her again in the baking aisle, which was more crowded. She stopped with her cart in the middle of the aisle and was reaching over toward the shelves when a woman came with her cart from the other direction. I was thinking it was kind of like stopping your car in the middle of the road when you got to your friend's house, getting out, and going to visit for a while. When green pants lady saw the other woman coming, she backed up to make room. But the other woman, who was handsome and appeared to be maybe 50 years old; as she approached, she left her cart behind and came toward us. She looked emotional. Part happy, part sad, part excited. Her arms were up in an almost hug position. She stopped directly in front of the woman and looked at her. The woman looked back, and I thought I was seeing a one-way recognition of an old friend. I expected to hear, "I'm so-and-so, from blah-blah-blah." But no. The younger woman was tentatively moving toward hugging the older and then retreating. Finally she said, "can I hug you, you look so much like my grandma." I was stunned and didn't watch the hug. I wish I had. I saw the disengagement, and the younger woman was crying tears and had that same look of part happy, part sad, part excited. She said, "thank you so much," and something again about her grandma. Green pants lady was not as hunched over now as the younger woman made her way past me and responded, "that did me as much good as you." I was now starting to move past her and getting pretty emotional myself. The older woman was smiling and said, "wasn't that sweet?" I said it was sweet, and she completed the encounter with, "you meet such sweet people."

Well yes you do meet sweet people, and this was a good reminder to me of that fact. My head swirled with thoughts of what the lives of these two women were like. The older, obviously having some health challenges, yet so positive and open to this unexpected encounter in the Ingles. Good for her. The younger, missing her grandma and seizing a moment to revisit her in some way. Good for her. And me being collateral damage in this random moment of connection.

I ran into the younger woman again in the toilet paper aisle and she was still teary and talking to some people she was shopping with. "The woman down there, she looked so much like grandma. Did you see her? Yes, 2 aisles down." Her shopping partners seemed confused or embarrassed. "I just had to hug her," she said.

So I completed my shopping on autopilot with much eye blinking, throat clearing, and thoughts of my place in life. I'm just lucky this happened after the cereal aisle, where difficult decisions have to be made.

One of my favorite blogs to read, The Hangover Journals, also occasionally deals with this Ingles, and here are some of those posts.


Jaime said...

That is positively amazing... I got teary-eyed just reading it. I can only imagine the amount of courage it took the younger woman to approach a complete stranger in order to complete her truth. It really reinforces, for me, that Life is not coincidental at all.

I wonder why you didn't watch the hug as it happened? Just curious...

Edward said...

It was just too intense and personal and surprising for me to watch. Maybe felt like I was intruding, so I stepped back by not looking? I think if I had seen what was coming earlier I would have watched and "embraced" the moment.