Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Repost: Saying Hello to Strangers

This post first ran on April 1 this year. I was only getting a few hits per day back then. I liked this short remembrance, I was just starting to find my voice, so I thought I'd repost it for my "new" readers. Enjoy!

E X P E R I E N C E S — An ordinary trip to the grocery store today, something I do on an almost daily basis, turned into a smile that has lasted the rest of the day.

The sun was shining for the first time in four or five days. The temperatures have been warming up nicely, even with the frequent downpours we've been experiencing. Today however, almost 70 degrees, and instead of riding my bike for speed, I decided to walk and enjoy the sunshine. I also decided to pick up some pansies at the store for my two cast-iron Victorian planters, and it's easier to walk with extra packages than ride. I was in a good mood!

The early spring flowers on sale were outside the store. I walked over to them and recognized an older woman that was also perusing the pansies. I say "recognize" because I don't know her, except for seeing her at this Stop & Shop parking lot occasionally, getting in or out of her vintage Mercedes Benz. She drives a brick-colored 1983 sedan, identical looking to the one I bought my mother a few short months before she died in 1999. This woman's is a higher level model, a 5 cylinder 300TurboDiesel, as opposed to the 4 cylinder base-model 240D I bought Mom, but the exterior and interiors are virtually the same. This smiling stranger was perhaps 70 years old, with dark red short hair, cut in a severely chic style, and spoke with a familiar German accent. I was born in Stuttgart while my father was stationed there, and spent three months of my senior year of high school living in Bremen on a student exchange program. We hit it off immediately.

I remarked on how beautiful the day was, how warm it was getting and how the pansies I had in my planters last year lasted until nearly December. She offered up a bright smile, and told me that pansies had a happy face, and walked over to show me the ones she had picked out.

"Look at the little faces smiling back at us" she remarked.

Pansies are NOT my favorite flower, but I've grown to appreciate them for their long-lives and constant blooms-you can plant them first in the season, and they will be the last blooms of the year. I never noticed that they smiled before, and they do!

She asked me what colors I was looking for, and I told her my house had been recently painted a salmon color. We both said 'purple' at the same time, lol, and moved over to the purple ones. She also told me that "A little white is always necessary in a garden." My mother's late cousin Corinne, who died at close to the age of 100, a few months after my mom passed away, always told me the same thing, "A little white does wonders for any garden." It was like Corinne was saying hi to me, in the guise of this nice red-haired stranger. I smiled at the thought of Corinne.

Then this woman with the delightful German accent told me to pick out a 'nice plant, one with lots of buds, not full blooms." At first I wasn't sure I heard her correctly. That is EXACTLY what my Mom used to say—almost every time we bought annuals together. "Always get the ones with buds, not full flowers, they're healthier." Now I felt like my Mom was with me. I smiled again, broadly smiled.

She insisted I take a certain bunch of purple pansies and another bunch of variegated ones, in whites and yellows, and told me I'd have a very happy garden with these little fellows smiling at me all season. I told her I was sure I would, thanked her and walked into the store thinking of my Mom and Corinne—thinking of another spring, another garden, another year without my parents and family—the people that taught me all about flowers, being kind to strangers, and making the most of your life no matter how much money isn't in your pocket.

A simple walk to the store, a simple hello to a stranger, and I was reconnected with lost family I miss tremendously. I've met a new friend as well, one I will surely give my best and broadest pansy smile to in the future, lol—a tremendous ten minutes of smiles that lasted the rest of the day—life was good this afternoon.


  1. I truly love this story...for as much as it made you smile that day, it has made me smile as well and think of my grandma and her pansies that are not the easiest to grow in NE. I also love their smiling faces.
    Thank you!

  2. Casey, I have had encounters such as that and love them every moment! It's delightful to read about the smile on your face then, and for the rest of your day. And the pansies sound lovely, in vibrant colors that would seem to suit you so well. Thank you for this story. It sure made me smile, as well! :)

  3. I'm right there with you, Mare. I was immediately reminded of my Mother. She LOVED pansies. One of the very last things I did for her was went to the farmers market and bought enough pansies to fill her outside containers. She told me to MAKE SURE they had nice faces. She was upset that she didn't have her pansies, and too sick to do as she would have normally. At least she got to see them. The irony is I could have been in the market on the same day as Casey - Mom died April 8th. I ended up bringing those containers to her gravesite. I'm sure she was smiling when she looked down on them.

  4. Hey Casey. It's funny to read this post since this is the first year I have planted pansies -- yellow ones -- in some of the pots on my stoop. Along with brick-red coleus they look terrific against the brownstone. I didn't think I liked pansies either, but in truth this year's stoop flowers have been my favorites in the six years I've lived in this house.

    Perhaps pansies -- and their namesakes :) -- bring people together. It's been nice reading your blog; so different than JMG where I first exchanged notes with you or than my own blog, but a nice occasion for interaction and a chance to stop and smell the flowers.

  5. :]:]:]:]:] MY CHEEKS HURT.



  6. thanks everyone. it's fun writing this blog and sharing small snippets of life. it's obvious as different as we all are in totality, people are people and share so many similar experiences throughout their lives.