Friday, November 27, 2009
A Thanksgiving Story
I went for a walk after returning home from the Thanksgiving Dinner last night. It had been a surprise invitation - Maxine works for Steinway, and we had only met once before. Two days ago, she called, and when she heard I had no plans for Thanksgiving, she invited me on the spot. The warm welcome, the pleasant afternoon in friendly company still before my mind’s eye, I walked through the dark and quiet streets. Thanksgiving is for the US what Christmas is for Germany - it really shuts the country down. I wondered whether the 24-hour drugstore a few blocks from here was open and I could pick up some cat litter for Cappuccina.
The store was open, and surprisingly busy. The holiday spirit that prevailed in the city had run a little thin coming out to Irvington, it seemed. No people in festive clothes, with smiles on their faces, carrying flowers, and bowls and pans wrapped in aluminum foil. Business as usual at the drugstore, hectic even, some folks merely hanging out, it seemed, the security guard in his place by the entrance.
Two registers were open, long lines gathering in front of them. An old woman was first in the line next to me. She wore simple black clothes and a black hat. Her face looked weary and tired, her mouth was toothless. I wasn’t really paying attention, lost in thought. The old woman was talking to the cashier and several people behind the counter. Bits of the conversation intruded into my reverie. My line moved.
The man in front of me handed the cashier his credit card. He had only picked up one or two items. Though the evening was chilly, he wore a light blue summer jacket that hadn’t been to the dry cleaner in a while. The beige chinos were too short and worn out. The conversation at the next register continued. Slowly, the old woman put items into her shopping cart. Something about the man in front of me caught my attention. I couldn’t really see his face - maybe it was the warm confidence in his voice.
Still engaged in his own transaction, he reached into his wallet, took out a $20 bill and handed it to the cashier at the next register, who was dealing with the old woman. For a moment, everybody who witnessed the scene fell silent. She didn’t understand. “It's paid for,” people explained. At last, her face brightened, as if lit from within. Still shaking her head in disbelief, smiling, calling blessings on her benefactor to last him a lifetime, she left the store.
The holiday spirit made it to Irvington. It was just traveling incognito.