Some days, it feels like that C-note is going to burn a hole right through my pocket before I find someone I’m drawn to give it to. Today wasn’t one of those days.

It all started when I realized we were out of butter. While this is certainly not the end of the world, it came as a profound shock. Louise does a lot of baking and we’ve basically been stockpiling butter for the past fifteen years. Whenever butter’s on sale, we buy a few pounds. One time it was $1.50 a pound at QFC and we really stocked up. Now when they see us coming they put out a little sign that says “Limit: 2”.

When our older son Aaron was away at college, Louise baked cookies every week and sent him a package. He’s in Dublin now, and out of reach of the USPS, but the cookies are still flying. Elijah gets a package every week in Boston. Usually it’s Louise who does the baking but I decided to make one of my specialties this weekend. It’s a breakfast bar from La Brea Bakery in LA. Key ingredient: butter. And time. It’s a multi-step process and I wanted to get it started.

Upstairs freezer: no butter. That didn’t worry me too much, as I knew we had a pile downstairs in the freezer we use for overflow (freezer jam but mostly, overflow butter). EMPTY. You can’t really lose something in the freezer, but I burrowed around for a while anyway.

So, I got ready to go to the store. There were a few other things we needed and I decided to go to the Safeway about 10 minutes from home. It was a beautiful day, I had a C-note in my pocket and I even remembered my reusable shopping bags.

As soon as I parked my car I realized I was going to have a hard time choosing. There were people everywhere, and many looked like they could use a hand. A few moms with fussy kids caught my attention, along with some others. But there was not enough privacy in the crowded aisles. I finally made my way to the butter. It was on sale!

My cart was pretty full by the time I got to the checkout. As I stood in line, my thoughts hit a little speed bump. I recalled putting stuff in my bag before I left the house: my phone, my notebook, even my camera. Now my groceries were being rung up and, with a sinking feeling, I reached into my bag. Yup, I’d remembered everything. Except my wallet.

The cashier was very nice and said she’d finish ringing everything up while I went home for my wallet. I got to my car, pulled out of the parking lot and immediately got stuck in a line of traffic. I could feel myself pitching toward a bad mood, until I turned on the radio and there was Yo-Yo Ma playing one of Bach’s cello suites.

20 minutes later I was back at the store. On my way in, I saw a woman sitting on a bench outside, like she was waiting for a ride. She looked tired, worn down. I felt anxious about my unattended shopping cart full of groceries and decided to take care of that first. If she was still there when I was done, I’d go talk to her.

She was gone by the time I came outside and I felt a stab of regret. I unloaded my groceries into the trunk, put my shopping cart away and headed back toward my car. I saw a woman wheeling an empty cart to the collection area. I’d noticed her inside, but now I could see that she was limping. She had one small bag of groceries in her hand.

I went up to the woman and said hello. She was friendly but guarded. I started to tell her how I had left my wallet home and she said, “Oh, honey. And I’m paying with food stamps. I can’t help you!” I told her it was fine, all taken care of. And that I wanted to give something to her. “I’m kind of in a hurry today, or I’d stay to talk,” she said. “My great-granddaughter is coming to my house.” She looked at her watch.

I told her I wouldn’t take more than a minute and held out the C-note. She looked down at it. “Really? For real? What’s this about? Is this about paying it forward?” I told her it was and she seemed satisfied. She told me her name was Mae and that she was retired and going through a real hard time. “Thank you so much!” she said. “What a blessing. You’re an angel in disguise.”

I got back in the car and turned on the radio. Yo-Yo Ma was still playing. I turned the volume up and let the music wash over me.

That's Mae

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5 Responses to Music and Mae

  1. Steph says:

    Forgetting your wallet and waiting in traffic can have a positive outcome. I hope to remember this. I like to think about all of the small details that had to fall into place for you to meet the people you meet.

  2. Pru McDonald says:

    PERFECT!!! A perfect Sunday morning story to warm my heart and inspire my day! Also, Jill, you posted it
    yesterday, 2/19, which was MY mother’s birthday; she
    would have been 105 if she hadn’t died 18 years ago at age 87. Of course, I marked the day with a special
    poem to my dear Sicilian Mama! Blessings to YOU, and blessings to Mae! Pru

  3. Berta says:

    It’s wonderful to think of this woman’s life being eased some by your gift!

  4. It was more than fate that Mae got the money, because you had all those other opportunities and things keep coming up so that they didn’t work out…it was Mae who was meant to get it, I am sure!

  5. Carrie says:

    Love this one!

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