This afternoon I popped into Trader Joe's to grab a few things before picking up Caroline from school. The store was busy and I immediately encountered a gaggle of shoppers in gridlock, each one staring at the selection of olive oils or simply trying to decide which way to go.
Ahead of me, in the direction I wanted to go, was a little old man. He wore a fisherman's hat, glasses, a faded short sleeve shirt, shorts, socks, and sandals. He looked a bit like Henry Fonda in On Golden Pond, only smaller and sweeter.
We regarded one another and I smiled, because my day had just been made. He raised his eyebrows and it almost looked as if he had to remind himself how to smile back. But then he did and in the midst of the bustle, the world stood still.
Have you ever shared a smile like that?
Of course we both yielded the right of way and laughed, then he insisted I go first, and I practically skipped off to the bananas.
Later on, as I rounded the last corner of the store, there he was again, perusing almonds. He looked up at me and I said, "I'm following you!"
He laughed and reached out and touched my shoulder.
He touched my shoulder!
"You're sweet," he said.
And I had this crazy moment, like when I tell Caroline what a good girl she is and she sort of pretends she didn't hear properly so I repeat myself and I can practically see the happiness travel through her body, wherein I wanted to make him say it twice.
But luckily I pulled myself together, said thank you, and kept going with a ridiculous grin plastered across my face.
To have lingered in the moment might have ended up with him inadvertently having to adopt me.
Then I wondered, would it be okay to take his picture? Like, surreptitiously? Unfortunately there was no one accompanying me who could frown and state what a breach of etiquette and possibly the law that would be.
Not to mention creepy.
To my credit, I exercised restraint and merely took the above shot as a reminder of this moment: how the kindness of a stranger may touch one deeply, how it can seem like a gift, how the feeling it creates will stay long after the almonds have been eaten and the bananas peeled, because most things cannot last forever but the things which do are the very most important of all.