I glanced up as the bells rang to herald new customers walking into the used clothing store.
I was looking for a pair of warm dress pants. Visiting my parents in Minnesota, I had forgotten entirely about the possibility of extreme cold and the idea of going out that night in tights and a skirt seemed preposterous.
Luckily, I found a like-new pair of black jeans with just a little sparkle on the pocket for a good price. I was wandering around the store with these jeans in my hand—just in case I saw something else that I might need—while I waited for the line at the check-out counter to get a little shorter. Maybe I could find a silver jacket, I thought, that would look nice on a cold winter night.
A woman and man had parked their pickup outside and come into the store. The woman marched in a determined fashion to a rack in the middle of the store. She was a heavyset woman and it looked as if she had located this rack on a previous visit. She approached with a grim determination.
She and the man she was with were standing in front of the rack of dark colored clothing as I slipped by with my sparkly jeans in hand. The woman was holding out an article of clothing for the man’s inspection.
“They’ll all be wearing sparkly clothes,” she said, sounding dejected. “This is just black… not sparkly.”
I almost said, “Sparkles are fun!” because they are—and because she sounded so sad that I wanted to say something to cheer her up. But I realized this was probably not the right thing to say so I stood silent, my back to the couple reviewing the unseen, unsparkled outfit that I suspected was going to be worn very soon.
“I think it will look good,” the man said—rather unconvincingly, I thought.
The woman stood silent, holding the black garment, visualizing (I am quite sure) a room full of happy women in sparkly dresses.
She sighed. “Okay. Let’s go.” She took the black garment to the front counter without trying it on and moments later they were gone. They whole transaction took less than 10 minutes and seemed completely void of holiday cheer.
I went home with my sparkly jeans and wore them out that night with an old friend. We stayed up late, laughing at the crazy things we had done together over the years and sharing crazy plans for the new year. But, after he was gone, for some reason I thought again of the unhappy woman I’d seen earlier in the day.
I wondered where she had gone, where this room of sparkly women had been and if the black garment had pleased her once she had finally tried it on. I suddenly felt unreasonably sad and wished that she had found something with sparkles on it—something silver or red or gold or green—something that would have made her happy and excited to greet the New Year.
There are so many expectations at this time of year. Sometimes it’s too much. Sometimes it is just too hard.
I watched the snow begin to fall and was filled with terrible feeling of tenderness and gratitude and a desire to try—to try a bit harder this year. I am going to try to be kinder. I’m going to try to slow down. I’m going to try to feel all of it in this new year—even the parts that hurt.
Maybe those in particular.
Until next time,