You know what’s strange? Cheryl and Paul’s car is still at the tire shop. I was very surprised, and a little worried, to see it today when I drove by. I was on my way to a coffee shop to do some serious writing. I hear that’s where writers do their best work.

Someone asked me last night if I thought of myself as a writer before I started blogging. I had to admit that it’s really hard for me to think of myself as a writer now. I don’t have much of an imagination and I could never write something like a novel. Maybe I was blessed at birth by the Powers of Observation Department, but the Creativity Department must have been on a big project that day and too busy to bother with me.

What I have been enjoying most about writing is taking these stories, fitting the pieces together and pulling something of meaning out. At least, having it make sense. It doesn’t feel like a particularly creative process, more like the work of a kindly, but strict, editor.

When I was asked recently to submit an article to a magazine, I said yes. I was delighted to be asked, and for the chance to get this story out to a broader audience. But I know it will be a struggle. I’ve already written and discarded two drafts. Today I was determined to get a handle on it and, sure enough, put in some solid work at the coffee shop.

The music was kinda loud; otherwise perfect

After a couple of hours I was ready to pack it in. This writing thing is hard work. I stopped at the store on my way home and checked to make sure I had a C-note in my pocket. As usual, Fred Meyer was packed. The sky opened up just as I pulled into the parking lot, and people everywhere were dashing to escape the deluge. People done with their shopping were assembled in the covered area by the door, waiting for a break in the rain.

So many people. As I have at times in the past, I felt a bit overwhelmed. People ask me how I choose and I have to say I don’t really know. Sometimes it is obvious that I am on the right track. Sometimes I have no idea what I’m doing and it works out okay anyway. Sometimes I flounder around a bit, watching a bunch of people before I get a flash of inspiration. That’s what happened today. I chatted with a few people, wandered around a little. The cashier told me a funny story about his neighbor and we had a laugh.

I headed out the door and stopped to put away my cart. There was a woman digging through all her shopping bags, clearly looking for something. She was elderly and had a younger man with her, maybe her son. He had a big beard and was dressed in heavy-duty work clothes.”Did you find it?” he asked gently. She kept digging. I went over to them and asked if they needed any help. The woman said she couldn’t find her receipt, and maybe the cashier had forgotten to give it to her. She decided to go back in to check, and the man started pushing the cart toward the parking lot. He said he’d come back to pick her up.

It had pretty much stopped raining. This big sweet man tugged at my heartstrings and I started to follow him. But as I watched him from behind, hunched over the shopping cart, the moment somehow passed. Just then a woman and young girl came out the door, holding hands. The woman’s head was mostly covered and she was wearing a big black jacket. From what I could see of her face she looked, well, weathered. Like life hadn’t been so easy.

The woman caught my eye and gave me an unexpectedly radiant smile. As they walked by I heard her say to the girl, “Let’s get going. We have a lot to do to get ready!” She had a surprising lightness in her step and there was a real sweetness between the two of them. I decided to follow.

They crossed the entire parking lot, headed for a row of cars way in the back. Lined up were an old pickup truck, a late model minivan and, their car, a sad looking old Cadillac. I made my move as the woman was opening the door. “Hi!” I said. She said hello, then looked at the sky. “It’s nice to get a little break in the rain, anyway,” she said, looking at me somewhat expectantly.

I wondered which car was theirs

“This might sound kind of strange,” I said, falling back on a line I used in the early days. “I’m paying forward a gift I got from my mom when she passed away last year.” The woman looked at me, then looked away. “Well. I’m surprised,” she said. I took out the bill and handed it to her. “I hope you’ll accept this gift.” She saw what it was and a wave of emotion crossed her face. Her eyes welled up and she pulled me into a hug. “Oh, wow! Are you sure? That is just amazing!”

She handed the bill to the girl and started looking through her purse. She pulled out a pen and said,”I’m gonna find some paper. I want to write down my number in case you ever want to get in touch with me. I’ll give you my email, too.” She said her name was Cecilia and introduced her nine-year old granddaughter, Serena.

Serena and the C-note

We talked for a few minutes, and I learned that they were getting ready for Serena’s brother’s birthday party tomorrow. The two kids have lived with Cecilia and her husband for the past five years. “We sure do have a lot of expenses, so this will help out,” she said with a smile. She told me that her husband was hurt on the job and can’t work in construction like he used to. Every so often she would stop and shake her head. “I’m just so surprised. This is really something.”

Cecilia and Serena

They both thanked me one last time and I said goodbye. Serena went to open the car door and said, “Grandma, it’s locked!” “Oh, I know I have the keys here somewhere,” said Cecilia. She looked through her purse and was patting at her pockets. “I’m just flustered, that’s all! Something like this doesn’t happen every day!” She pulled the keys out of her coat pocket with a big smile and unlocked the door. As I turned to go, I heard her say, “Oh, Serena! Isn’t that just wonderful?”

Isn't that just wonderful?

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7 Responses to Oh, Serena!

  1. DJan says:

    Just absolutely wonderful, Jill. (sigh) These stories make my day. The question about whether or not you are a writer is immaterial, since you communicate your spirit perfectly through your writing.

  2. Giver Girl says:

    SO wonderful. A family foster parent and with the little boy’s birthday coming! They will always remember this. I probably will too.

  3. Pru McDonald says:

    Our paths can change in an instant! Go wherever your path leads, find other Serenas, others new-found friends with whom to share your gifts and your love, and blessings will surely continue to follow!

    This story made the REAL disaster of MY day, brighter and more hopeful!

  4. andrea gehrke says:

    When the world seems so insensitive, and I am suffering from news overload, I look to your wonderful blog for respite. My heart is once again touched by the joy that you, in honor of your mother, have given. That is what “winning” is all about.

  5. Sharon Martinelli says:

    What a delight to find this blog post. I have been thinking a lot today about my mother who passed away last summer and I am truly touched on how you are honoring your mother. This is beautiful and so is your spirit.

    • Jill Ginsberg says:

      Sharon- I, too, am delighted that you found the blog! Thank you for your sweet words. My condolences on the loss of your mother. Wishing you peace- Jill

  6. Barb says:

    Hi Jill, I happened here from somewhere else, started reading at the top, and now I’m at Serena’s story. I find both your writing and your giving mesmerizing. I’ll be back to read again. Good Luck as you keep living this life that you’re choosing. It’s a good one.

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