In these days of hustle-bustle and going our own way and looking out for our own, with reports of passers-by just passing on by, even in the face of need and danger and injury---I’ve been thinking of a sweet little memory I have of a visit to
. It was an everyday little happening---a fleeting thing-of-a-moment, but it’s stood as one of my fondest remembrances of the trip. England
We were walking down a little street in
, and my three companions stopped in a store. I sat down inside a handy bus-wait shelter to get out of the proverbial noon-day sun---one of those huge clear molded plastic half-rooms, with a plastic seat molded in, and a perfect spot for people-gazing. Bristol
We were right outside a good-sized grocery store---one of the purveyors of choice in all the towns and cities large enough---their version of a supermarket, containing quite a few other types of items, as do our own. It’s the mesh-bag-with-carrot-tops type of grocery, though they also offer 400 cheeses and more types of wine, but many of the customers emerged with the green plastic shopping bags imprinted with the store’s name in the most refined script.
I watched the crowds approach, go up the two steps into the widewide door, and my eye was caught by a pair of perfectly British ladies clad in skirts and tucked-in blouses and cardigans, their stockinged feet in entirely sensible shoes and their shopping bags hanging neatly on their arms. One came toward the store doors smiling, looking upward at someone standing out of my view. Her fresh-shined face with its unrestrained eyebrows, and the ever-so-small smudge of lipstick parted over her slightly-protruding teeth just gleamed with gladness to meet the unseen person.
She was a perfect complement to her companion, a twin in wide glasses and square-cropped hair---two from-the-pages denizens of St. Mary Mead of any era, both looking up pleasantly at the still-out-of-sight person perhaps a foot above them. First Lady reached the door, stood at the foot of the steps and reached upward, and since both of the ladies right in front of me were of a certain age, I assumed that someone upon the top step had reached down to assist her up.
She kept smiling and spoke to the unseen one, then helped an even-more-delicate and aged dear soul to descend the steps, as she slowly and carefully put one laced-oxford foot down beside the other. That dearie was smiling in return, and when she was safely deposited on the sidewalk, beamed back, “I’m ev-va so grateful deahr,” and made her way down the sidewalk with her own mesh bag containing two oranges and a cauliflower. The lack of further conversation led me to believe that they had not met before.
It was just a tiny moment, but forever cast in amber for me---a memory of a time and place which may soon be as past as the tumbled wall which repelled the hordes, and now is hearth and home. Just that beaming smile, the pleasure on her face in meeting a friend, or perhaps just someone who needed her at a time when her own need was to BE needed. I’ll always remember her cheery little uplook-smile with the little teeth just peeping out, and the small moment of gratitude expressed by the recipient. I wish them both well, and may they feel a warmth from a stranger’s memory and impression of their kindness and lovely manners.