I will always remember Bernadette. Married for less than two weeks, one week out of surgery to repair my severed achilles tendon, my husband and I needed a brief escape from the apartment, so we found ourselves at the Mercer Island Thrift Store. While he perused the men's clothing, I hopped my way on crutches to eyeball the rest of the upstairs. Face flushed from the late spring surge of warmth, the stuffy air congregating in the store's upstairs, and the exertion of energy required for hefting the plaster beast of a post-op cast on my leg, I propped myself against a wall and pretended to be interested in the formal gowns hanging beside me.
"Oh, you poor thing," a gentle voice interrupted my browsing. "This must be right about near prom season for you, too!"
I turned to face a slender woman, appearing to be in her mid to late sixties, her brow creased in concern for me.
I chuckled, "No, not prom season exactly. Far from it, actually. But this did happen right before my wedding."
"Your wedding? Did you still get married? Oh my, you don't look old enough to be married! Do you mind if I ask what happened?"
My smile spread wide. At thirty-one, a girl can start to feel a like she's tipping over to the old side of the aging scale, and what a delight it was to still be considered eligible for prom. But more than that, the sincerity of her concern for me warmed me inside.
"Well, I ruptured my achilles tendon in an exercise class, four days before our wedding," I explained. "Not exactly what we had in mind for our wedding... but I'm told it makes for a great story."
"Oh, that's terrible! At least you're laughing about it," she sympathized.
"It's either laugh or cry, and really, it gave me a chance to see before our wedding what an amazingly supportive man I was marrying. That is the most important thing."
We introduced ourselves and stood chatting for a few minutes about my wedding, her telling me how she moved out here from the East Coast with one of her sons, how she lived down the street in an apartment. How she was searching for something nice to wear on Mother's Day when her son took her out for dinner. I helped her browse for a few more minutes. Before she moved on to the dressing room, she pulled out a worn business card and wrote her name and phone number on the back. Handing it to me, she offered, "If you ever need any assistance while you're recovering, please don't hesitate to call me. I'm retired and I live alone, so I've got plenty of time on my hands, but I am on the bus. I've raised and nursed six children, so I'm pretty good at mothering." She finished with a beam reminiscent of chocolate chip cookies fresh from the oven, a glass of milk and a soft bear hug on a hard day.
I reached out to accept the card, our fingers touching, stunned that this beautiful stranger had offered such a thing. I didn't even know people still did things like this, not here in our keep-to-yourselves Seattle area. Except, we weren't in Seattle. We were in Mercer Island, just a five-minute jaunt across the water from the big city, and already this small community felt like a breath of fresh air, thanks to people like her.
"I'm... touched, Bernadette. Thank you, so much. And I wish you a happy Mother's Day." We exchanged smiles, and she turned to go, leaving me with my jaw practically hanging open. I carefully tucked the card into my pocket.
*This post is linked with Just Write - check out Heather's The Extraordinary Ordinary blog.