Guess who’s feeling better? Patches, that’s who! I pretty much thought she was a goner but she is just about back to her old self. We figure something must have gotten ahold of her outside and given her a good shaking or something, as she didn’t have a mark on her but was painful to any touch or movement for about three days. Thanks for all the good wishes!

Patches, feeling better!


In my opinion, the end of May is the best time of year. My birthday usually falls somewhere during the holiday weekend, and, really, who doesn’t love spring? One of my very favorite things is planting stuff to eat in the garden. We don’t have a ton of planting space but it’s enough for salad all summer long, berries and a few other choice items. I try to get my tomatoes in the ground soon after Memorial Day. Instead of starting from seed, for the past few years I’ve bought seedlings and hardened them outdoors for a couple of weeks before planting them.

We’ve been compulsive about throwing things away lately, and when I went to get some gallon-size containers to re-pot the seedlings I found that we’d tossed them all. So it was off to Fred Meyer for some pots and a bag of compost.

The store always seems to be crowded with an incredible diversity of shoppers. I saw people I know from the neighborhood, a colleague from work, a homeless guy I recognized, lots of parents with kids and miscellaneous folk.

I had a hundred in my pocket and toured through the outdoor garden section after picking up my compost. I noted that the shoppers in this area seemed a lot more homogeneous. Mostly white, mostly female. I went inside, found my pots and slowly wheeled my cart up and down the aisle a few times.

A woman caught my eye. Actually, it was her shopping cart that I noticed. In sharp contrast to every other person within my field of vision, her cart was empty. Completely empty. In the front section she had a purse and a reusable shopping bag. The woman seemed sad, maybe a little lost. I followed her eyes as she looked at a variety of things on the shelves: Roundup weed killer. Sunflower seeds. Hoses. She stopped in front of the display of faucet and hose repair items. The aisle was otherwise empty and I made my move.

I walked up next to her and took an item off the display. “Hi there,” I said. She looked at me, hard, than punctuated the look with a sort of challenging glare. Oops, I thought. Maybe I picked the wrong lady. When in doubt, make conversation.

“These are so chintzy,” I said. “They paint them to look like metal, but they’re plastic!” “And they’re probably made in China,” she added. “Do you have a big garden?” I asked. She shook her head. “I hardly have a yard.” Then she took hold of her empty cart and headed off down the aisle.

I caught up with her and said, “Hey, this may sound strange.” She looked at me with those hard eyes again. “I have a gift I would like to pass along to you.” “What is it?” she asked. I handed her the bill, she looked at it and then she just stared at me. And stared. I think she gets the record for the longest staring of any of the 60-plus people who have accepted my gift.

Finally, she broke her silence. “Thank you!” She reached out to shake my hand and I asked her name. “It’s Judy. Thank you so much.”


I said a quick goodbye, sensing that Judy wouldn’t want to talk much or have her picture taken. After I walked away, I rounded the corner and saw her again. I felt emboldened. She said she was fine with me taking her picture and we started to talk. She said she had read about a woman giving away money on the bus and wanted to know if that was me. She wanted to know why I had picked her. When I told her I had noticed her empty cart, she smiled and said “I’ve always been frugal.”

She was actually happy to talk and we chatted for about ten minutes. We talked about the difference between being frugal and being cheap. I told her a little about my mom and she offered her condolences. Then we said goodbye.

I got home and repotted the tomatoes. Now there’s a light rain falling on them and they look so happy. I imagine them stretching their little toes into the dirt with a sigh.

Some of my beauties

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4 Responses to An Empty Cart

  1. Marilyn Pierce says:

    I live in federal housing and we can’t plant things in the ground, so I plant my tomato’s in Tillamook ice cream 5 gallon buckets. They are white, the first year I used the black ones from Fred Meyer’s and then I read somewhere that black pots hold in the heat and ruin the roots. You can buy the white containers for 50 cents each at the cheese factory in Tillamook. Then my daughter just drills holes in the bottom for me. I really enjoy reading all of your posts. I think it is great how you are honoring your mother.

  2. It is so fascinating how you hone in on just the exact person who you do to give your mother’s continuing “gift” to…love hearing these encounters. You are truly an “earth angel”.

  3. DJan says:

    I always enjoy thinking about the people who hear about you and then are the recipient of one of your hundreds. I think Judy will certainly use the money frugally… or cheaply, if you will. 🙂

  4. June Bell says:

    I read your column in Barnard’s alumnae magazine and was very moved by your generosity. Thank you for setting such an amazing example.

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