Believe it or not, I forgot it was almost Christmas. It wasn’t until I stepped inside (you guessed it) Fred Meyer that it all came rushing back to me. Don’t get me wrong: I have nothing against Christmas or those who celebrate it. Nothing at all. I know it seems bizarre to my Christian friends that I don’t celebrate Christmas or even understand a lot of the traditions.
There are certain aisles in the grocery store that I never visit: those with whole categories of things that I just don’t use, and never buy. Air freshener and cosmetics are examples; those displays are just background noise and I walk by without taking much notice. The Christmas stuff is kind of like that for me. Does that seem weird?
Anyway, having both kids home for a while is wonderful and it means lots of cooking and baking. I made some old favorites over the weekend; they are not as hard as they look.
On the schedule for this week is rugalach: tender cream cheese dough rolled around a raisin and walnut filling and covered with cinnamon and sugar. I make mounds of them every year and needed a couple of things to get started.
I am determined to reach my goal of 100 gifts before the end of the year. It’s going to be a crunch because I still have nine or ten to go. I had my eyes out while shopping but mostly I was concentrating on getting what I needed and back home.
I had parked right out in front of Starbucks and on the way to my car I noticed a woman sitting by herself behind the window. She had her laptop in front of her and looked pretty engrossed. As I walked by, she looked up and our eyes met briefly.
I loaded my groceries into the trunk and decided to go back and talk with the woman. She was tucked all the way in the back, where there was some kind of toy collection. There was no one sitting nearby. It was perfect. I went in and breezed right by the counter as the barista followed me with his eyes. “Hi there,” I said, as I walked up to the woman’s table. “Hello, she replied.” She was friendly but a bit wary.
“I wanted to talk with you for a minute,” I started to explain. I told her how I was passing along a gift left to me by my mother and wanted to give her something. “I hope it makes your holiday a little brighter.”
“Oh, you don’t have to give me a gift!” she protested.
I put the hundred on the table in front of her. (After I dropped it on the floor, that is.)
“Are you kidding me? Are you kidding me? Is this for real?” I reassured her that it was legit but she remained incredulous. “Are you kidding me?” she said a few more times.
The woman stuck her hand out and introduced herself: “My name is Helen. I can’t believe this!” I told her my name and she asked if this is something my mother did when she was alive. I told her a little more about my mom and my history as a cheapskate. “I get that,” she mused. “I really understand what you’re doing.”
She sat quietly for a minute, then she grabbed my hand. “I know exactly what I’m going to do,” she said somberly. She explained that she has a friend who did something especially kind for her and she has always wanted to pay him back. “There’s something I wanted for him, but I couldn’t afford it. You just made my day! You made my year! Jill! This is amazing!”
Helen works at Fred Meyer. I wondered why I had never seen her in the store but she explained that she works at a different location now after 12 years in Hollywood. “Being in retail can be exhausting. I have the day off today and wanted to just sit here and read my email and drink a coffee before doing my errands. And look what happened!”
We talked about the layaway angels and how an act of kindness can have unexpected consequences. She agreed that her friend probably had no idea how much he had done for her.
“Really, you made my year!” she said again. Then she gave me a hug.
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