Posts Tagged ‘poverty and the single woman’

cheese-bun1This is an oldie, published in Moondance: Celebrating Creative Women in June of 2004. While we deal with the current recession, I can’t help but think of it again, and remember that we are often luckier than we realize.


Once in a while, when I’m feeling particularly blue and disillusioned with life, something happens to open my eyes. Call it an epiphany, if you will, but it’s a blessing for which I’m thankful.

Not too long ago, I had such an awakening. We were riding the tail of a very stressful month, filled with uncertainty and worry around recent employment changes, and emotions in our home had run the gamut. Finally, we decided to shake off the negativity that enveloped us, and recapture some of our usual fighting spirit. Whatever fate brought, we would focus on what was right in our lives, rather than worry about what we couldn’t control.

That night, the wisdom of our decision was proven to me in the guise of a solitary woman who stood behind me in the grocery store. I had come for just a few items, but being a bargain hunter by nature, I had taken advantage of mid-week bargains. I placed my carefully selected items on the grocery belt; two cases of Coke, two containers of ice cream, and two bags of potato chips, far from necessities, but all discounted; inexpensive laundry detergent; cat food; milk; bread; three bags of coffee. As I faced the the cashier scanning the bar codes, my eyes glanced left and downward and were drawn to pair of feet wearing flowered neon pink socks. The only protection between her feet and the cold November ground were a pair of cornflower blue flip flops.

From the corner of my eye, I gazed upwards. Bare legs, a printed skirt and shirt, and over it all, no coat, but a transparent green hooded raincoat. She stood ramrod straight, a large rectangular floral bag gripped tightly in her hands.

Must be eccentric; maybe an artist, or even a writer; someone who cares little of outward appearances, I thought to myself.

I handed the cashier the money for my purchases, and the woman placed her order on the belt: a single cheese bun.

“That will be fifty cents please,” I heard the cashier say, then “Do you want a bag?”

“No. Thank you anyway,” the woman answered, as she placed the coins in the cashier’s hand.

From over my shoulder I turned quickly to catch a last glimpse of the woman, and then I saw what was not apparent at first. For she didn’t wait until she was outside to hide her hunger from the rest of the world; there, in the suburban grocery store, she began to eat.

In that second, I knew the truth, and I sensed her shame.

In the parking lot, I quickly lost sight of her as she moved on foot between the cars. I wondered how far she had to travel on such a cold night, dressed so poorly. Then I looked down at my own clothes: the warm leather boots and brown lambskin coat, my carefully matched purse and gloves. I opened the trunk to my car, still like new, every option possible, all shiny black paint and chrome and tan leather, insisted on by my indulgent husband. I drove home, her image branded into my memory.

Somehow, she seemed abandoned, a solitary lonely woman. Beautiful once, and would be even now if sorrow and hard times weren’t so indelibly grafted into her skin. Perhaps younger than I, but I couldn’t be sure. Long, gently curling hair. Clear blue eyes which stared straight ahead. Tall and slim, good bone structure, she could have been a Hollywood actress on a set. But this wasn’t Hollywood.

Did someone love her once? Had she ever known the joy of a small child’s arms around her, or the warmth of a grown son’s hugs and the words “I love you, Mom.”

Did she one day have a husband like mine, who even then, despite work worries, was home in a cold garage, doing his own version of “Junkyard Wars” to create a closed cabin for his old snow plow? A husband who jokingly calls me “Highness,” who makes love to me and brings me tea, who tells me I’m beautiful and smart every day of my life? Has she ever loved someone who could make her laugh until she cried, who shared private jokes and silly stories with her?

If she did, was the sorrow I sensed the mourning of what was lost?

No matter what else life has dealt me, I have been lucky enough to know such love. I watch my husband from afar, and sometimes, his thick hair, now graying, seems once again the color of honey. The years disappear, and I see the vulnerable boy I fell in love with so long ago.

So, thank you, mysterious lady. You have helped me see once again how truly blessed I am. I hope that some day fate allows you to feel a similar joy in your own heart.


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