It was a long line, the kind you see and dread during the holiday season. There were two frantic cashiers trying move things along, but despite their efforts, the line of restless customers seemed to multiply with each passing second. Some people rolled their eyes and some shifted their weight to the right, then the left, then back again to the right. One woman just kept sighing. Her sighs were rhythmical; it was like she was keeping time with those puffs of air. If the line were a band, her sighs were the drums and the murmur of the crowd was the guitar, punctuated by a ringing cell phone as a triangle every now and again. The occasional coughing fits acted as the lead vocals by not one, but two customers with colds. At least they had the decency to split up, one hacking, dry cough in the front and one wheezy cough accompanied by some sneezing in the back.
I was next to a woman clutching a book. She had the latest Diary of a Wimpy Kid book in her arthritic hands.
“You’re going to make someone very happy with that book,” I said, pointing to Greg Heffley on the cover. “Kids can’t get enough of that series.”
“It’s for my grandson. For Christmas. He wanted this and a cell phone. He’s getting the book. He’s not getting the cell phone.”
“How old is he?” I asked. That was it. Asking that question was like switch being turned. Faint dimples appeared in this women’s face as she smiled. She smoothed her silvery hair back from her face. This woman’s posture even changed and as she stood taller, she turned her back to the cashiers and the rest of the line. Her joy, the joy of being asked to speak about her perfect grandson, was obvious and involuntary.
I learned all about Will, who would be turning 8 in March. As a baby, he wasn’t very fussy. Will was looking forward to being a big brother in the spring, but confided in ‘Grammy’ that if given the choice, he’d rather have a little brother. His favorite thing was soccer and he when he went to the beach in the summer, he asked his parents to let him bring two soccer balls in case one ‘broke’. My new friend in line even asked me to hold Will’s Christmas present, so she could root around in her handbag to find a picture.
The ten minute wait in line had been reduced to what felt like ten seconds. One of the cashiers called out to Grammy, so it was time for us to say goodbye.
“Will sounds like a special little boy. Thanks for telling me all about him. I know he’ll love the book,” I said.
“Oh, I talk about him whenever I get a chance,” she said. And before walking to the register, she placed her hand on top of mine, looked me in the eyes, and said “Merry Christmas, dear” with such sincerity, I had to stop myself from scooping her up in a hug.
Letting someone else talk about what brings them joy in life can bring a little joy into yours. Happy Holidays, everyone.