A Working Holiday

The grocery store is common ground for most of us. The difference is the uncommon stories we carry in our hearts as we go about the business of shopping for our daily bread.

On my last visit to the local grocer, an elderly lady said, "Excuse me," and asked if I knew where she could find the ground pork. As I helped her scout the meat cooler, she told me she needed the pork to make her annual meat pies.

"I'm making them early this year. My two children and their families are going away for Christmas."

Our search for the pork slowed down as our conversation progressed. Her husband, Jack, had passed away in the spring. The children wanted to cancel their holiday vacation and stay home, but she insisted they go, and made Christmas plans of her own.

"I'm not having a tree or putting up decorations. I've had more good Christmases than any one person could ever hope for. This year, I'm giving back."

The week before Christmas, she's going to help a couple of organizations distribute food and gift baskets to the needy. On Christmas Day, she's going to serve food at the Downtown Mission. Her eyes were firm and clear as she spoke. No sign of the sadness you'd expect to see in the eyes of a person about to spend their first Christmas alone after forty-one years of marriage. I soon found out why.

"I'm giving my own self as a Christmas present this year," she announced, and promptly burst into laughter. The sound of it was contagious. I laughed with her.

Then, making me privy to a delightful conspiracy, she whispered, " Everyone pats my hand and feels sorry for me. They think I'll be all alone, that Jack won't be with me."

One look at the sparkle in her eyes, and I knew Jack had never left.

"He's had it pretty easy these last six months," she explained, "While he's been resting on his laurels and shootin' the breeze, I've continued to work my way through the days. Look at me right now, trudging through the grocery store looking for pork."

Another round of laughter ensued.

"Fair's fair. I'm putting Jack to work over the Christmas holidays."

We found the pork, eventually, and parted company.

So much love, life and laughter in one little lady - the memory of our encounter will stay with me always.

I thought of her husband as I stood in the check-out line, and stifled a sudden urge to laugh. "I hope you're getting plenty of rest Jack. You're definitely working this Christmas."

[ Terri McPherson, © 2000, Windsor, Ontario, Canada (tmcphers@mnsi.net) -- from Aiken Drum ]


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