I was in our local wine shop this morning, running my litany of weekend errands. I was in a contemplative and compassionate mood – always trying to bring the principles of Yoga and Reiki to my life off the mat, with mixed levels of success. Sundays are good days. I am rested and have more time to be patient, to be open, to listen.
The guy at the local wine shop knows me. (Really, I don’t buy or drink that much wine.) We chat. I tell him what wines I like and what wines my husband likes and he shows me new inventory. When impatient, more affluent customers come in, eager for their more expensive selections right away, I wink at him and tell him I am not in a hurry. I go and browse while he helps the Very Important Person who lives in the Very Rich Suburbs of New York.
As I was browsing, I felt my cell phone vibrating. Hurriedly, I fumbled for it. It was my daughter! She’s been at college for 3 weeks now, and we all agree it feels like 6 months. Our textversations and conversations are truly the highlights of my days. I grabbed my phone, knowing I could go quietly to a corner of the store, welcome and undisturbed, to connect with my beautiful girl.
“Hi Sweetie!” I exclaimed in greeting.
Suddenly, the lovely old woman near me looked me in the eye and smiled.
“I thought you were talking to me!” She laughed.
I laughed at how my exuberant greeting must have come across to her.
I snuck off and had my delicious conversation and then went to the counter to pay for my wine. The old woman and her daughter, a woman of a certain age, like me, were finishing up. I waited. When they turned to leave, the old woman and I cried “Bye Sweetie!” and high-fived. The daughter, quite perplexed, asked her mother if she knew me. We explained our chance meeting and said our good-byes.
The guy at the wine store commented that I made friends so easily. Ha! Not really. At least I don’t think of myself that way. But maybe that is another aspect of my personality that is evolving. Softening.
As I was driving away, I spied the mother and her daughter walking home. I impulsively stopped and offered them a ride. After all, we were friends now! We introduced ourselves. Celeste is 97. She looks 77. I told her that she looks fantastic for her age (yuck, what a horrible way to say that I can’t believe I said that but she didn’t seem to mind). I told her that my mom was 92 and in rehab for a broken hip. Celeste reassured me that she will be fine. That her generation is strong and resilient. They’ve been through World War 2 after all. We parted ways, expecting to never see each other again, but grateful for the serendipitous connection. Of course, now I can’t get her out of my mind and I wish we had exchanged more than just our first names. Since I am too far away to help my 90-something mother, it alleviates some of my guilt to offer help to someone else’s 90-something mother. Though Celeste doesn’t seem to need a lot of help. She is not frail and has a good attitude. May we all live to be 97, as cheerful and healthy as she is.
I’ve never met a Celeste – it’s one of those lovely older names not in common use now. The only Celeste I know is from the Babar books. Babar tragically lost his mother to hunters. This always shocked and saddened me. Orphaned, he befriended an old lady who mentored him. Babar married his 2nd cousin, Celeste, where they ruled with lovingkindness. I loved the Babar books but kind of forgot them. I am feeling soon-to-be-orphaned. Is this my old lady mentor? And elephants always make me think of my daughter. She is in awe of elephants after one waved his ear at her when she was a little girl visiting the zoo.
All in all I think my new friendship must be a good omen.
If I Can Stop One Heart From Breaking, By Emily Dickinson
If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.
Image: Celeste from the Babar series by Jean de Brunhoff