Monday, May 11, 2009
The older I get, the more I like to prepare in advance for a day like Mother’s Day. That said, I was one of those last minute guys picking up the Hallmark Card over there at the corner Drug Store on Saturday afternoon.
I wasn’t alone. There were several other guys like me there at the card rack. As I walked through the automatic doors with one of them, I knew we just might be heading to the same place. Sure enough, there we were, two strangers searching for the same card category in the expanded “Mother’s Day” section.
“I guess we both know why we’re here,” I offered.
“Yep.” And he pointed to the tabbed file card. “TO WIFE.”
“Looks like the selection’s getting slim,” he said. By Saturday afternoon, they are pretty well picked over. “Yeah,” I agreed. Us guys are not regulars at the Hallmark counter. An occasional birthday, maybe. Anniversary. And Mother’s Day. Three times a year. We’re there. Whoops, almost forgot. Valentine’s Day. Make that four.
Generally, I prefer to do this one on my own. I’m not real eager for strangers to look over my shoulder and read these rather personal sentiments I plan to pass along to Carolyn on these occasions. Maybe there are guys who want help. For me, there’s a privacy issue. But there we were. Guys tentatively reading the text on Hallmark cards.
I looked down the row, and at the end was a guy I won’t soon forget. I’ll never see him again, but he made an indelible mark. I’d call him six-foot-four, maybe two-sixty to two-eighty. Maybe more. Big tattoo on his upper arm. Baseball cap. Earring. He held up one of those glossy sacks with a pair of white string handles, a combination lime green and sky blue and brimming out of the top were multicolored tissues. A bright red bow tied neatly to the handle. He was working on a gift package, adjusting the paper just so, and it clearly was not intended for a teammate on the football squad or a buddy out there on the job site. He tinkered with it in a world of his own there on the drug store aisle by the gift packaging section. Guys do goofy stuff when they are in love. Tomorrow is Mother’s Day.
So we all lined up to pay our bill. Holding our cards. A few held colorful bouquets. All of us seemed a little uncomfortable; except for that big guy with the gift bag and the tattoo. You could tell the checker was amused by the scene. It’s one of the seasonal perks for an otherwise dull occupation.
After a minute or two it was just me and the big guy. He punched in his debit card code, grabbed his receipt, thanked the checker and turned toward the door marked OUT. I handed the woman behind the counter my card and some cash, but I was thinking about how good it is that we have Mother’s Day and while most of us fall short of meeting up to expectations most of the time, at least we’re there standing in line somewhere with something chosen off the shelf that will communicate our love and pride and appreciation to the one waiting for us back home. The big guy must have known I was thinking about him, because he turned back toward me, caught my attention, pointed to his gift bag and surprised me with an explanation.
He said, “Day at the spa.” And from under his cap, he broke into a big, broad smile.
“Wow.” I smiled back. “That’s cool.”
“She’s never been to one,” he added; grinning like he’d just won the championship game.
“Way to go,” I responded with a fist pump.
He nodded back, acknowledging the universal sign of victory still smiling, and then he turned back and walked out the door. Maybe I was just imagining it, but I noticed a little bounce in his step.
The checker didn’t make eye contact, but she smiled knowingly as she worked the register.
So my imagination went to work again. Maybe I missed it entirely – but this is what I thought: I pictured the woman who said yes to this giant of a man. I imagined the little brood of kids she produced and cares for and the pride this young father feels every time he thinks about the rascals who call him Daddy. He recognizes the thankless hours she puts in every day and he’s bringing it home: a gift pack with a gift card tucked inside the tissue. For you, sweetheart: a day at the spa.
He didn’t strike me as a guy who was out to buy affection; to offset some sort of misbehavior. Not this guy. He was clearly rewarding a job well done and a future he embraces. Largely, because of her. Mother’s Day is a good thing. That’s the way I saw it.
So he inspired me. I thought about Carolyn. And Kristyn. And Candy. And Sonya. And my Mom. All of them.
Moms who deserve a day of joy and thanks.
I wonder – who was that big guy?
Copyright Kenneth E Kemp 2009