Driving to work today, I took my normal route through backroads to get to the office. I’ve driven nearly the same route for about 12 years, through 2 jobs. As I wound around the roads, passing houses, I came across a house I have been passing for those 12 years. Over time, the house which once had peeling paint and looked a bit run down had been spruced up with new paint. It’s owner (I assume) had been a gentleman who sat outside in the mornings, drinking his coffee and smoking a cigarette. I saw him out there many a day, just watching the traffic roll go by as folks scrambled to get to their daily destination. He seemed to be a constant. Every time I passed him, as a child of a parent who died from lung cancer, I silently wished he would stop smoking, for his health and well being. I did this every time I saw him out there puffing away.
Today, however, he was not out there. What WAS there were a bunch of brightly colored signs that said loudly “ESTATE SALE”. Underneath the bold, big lettering were smaller letters that said “come reminisce with Kathy”. I mulled over what I had seen. When was the last time I had seen him outside? I couldn’t remember. Had he passed away? I didn’t know him. I didn’t know if he had passed, but if he had, it made me sad. The signs of “reminisce with Kathy” made my heart ache. I didn’t know Kathy. Had no idea who she was. What I did know, all too well, is how it feels to watch a loved one’s belongings be sold because there simply wasn’t enough space to keep them all. The signs begged for not only sales, but for a human connection. I felt bad. Bad enough that my eyes teared up and I cried for a complete stranger.
As I finished my commute, I thought about why I had felt so sad. I didn’t know these people, yet I felt so sad. These people, while not even acquaintances, were part of my life’s wallpaper. People who are strangers, yet somehow have woven themselves into my life by their very presence while I go about my day to day business. Some you notice a little, some a lot, and some you don’t notice much at all until you realize that they aren’t there.
One particular person who fits this bill is Purple Jeep lady. I may have even written about her before. She fascinates me. Nearly every day I am driving to work, I pass a purple Jeep Cherokee, driven by a blond lady who seems to always be smiling. I often wondered why she smiled so much while driving. Did she simply love the drive? Was she listening to Howard Stern? Was she rocking out to music that took her to a different time and place in her life? What was her secret? What was her STORY? I once saw her pulling out of her house and was kind of excited to see another glimpse of her life. Her house had artificial flowers planted outside, by the looks of it, and I was surprised by this. I wondered if she was happy because she MADE her world what she wanted. Regardless, when I see her car drive by, I smile a little more. Even the purple car makes the world a more colorful place.
That’s the funny thing about these people we see every day. Sometimes, it’s fun to wonder about their lives, or to come up with your own story about them. Everybody has a story, after all. If I saw her out, I don’t think I would be able to approach her, as she’d probably think I’m a creeper. What I’d want to say, is “I see you every day on my commute, and you look so happy, that you make me happy!” I told you, makes me sound like a creeper.
This brings me back to the signs. They were new to my life’s wallpaper today. I sit here and wonder how Kathy is doing. I wonder if she has had anyone come by to reminisce, to chat, to see how she is doing. I wonder if she is ok. I remember when my dad had the estate sale before he moved into a smaller house, selling much of the stuff he and my mom had accumulated. Many of the items that my mom had said I could have, things of sentimental nature, got sold accidentally because my dad simply wasn’t aware I had wanted them. I didn’t realize he didn’t know. Little things, like a doll chair my mom put her antique teddy bear on, and some of my old books. My mom’s china, which may be outdated but I loved to bits because we only used it for special occasions, like Christmas dinners. Those plates reminded me of all the special dinners we had had together. I was so crushed to learn they were gone to strangers’ houses, but I hope they are loved by their new owners. Learning those items were gone from my world reminded me harshly that big changes were in place. Not only was my mom gone, but the house where so many memories of her were was being sold. Her items, not needed any more, but wanted.
All these people I have on the fringe of my life. They likely don’t notice me, but they are a part of my world by their very presence. I wonder if there is anyone out there that believes the same of me. I wonder what the “story” is they have made up about me, without ever saying a word. Like Purple Jeep Lady, I need to smile more…you know, make them wonder what I am up to!