December 3, 2009

I Love Surprises!

I don't know about you, but personally I love surprises. Especially when they come in the form of gifts.

A friend I've known since childhood was in town for the holiday weekend and he brought along his fiancee. She was very nice, but it was obvious that she was a 'city girl' and we and my friend's family live in a very rural backwoods part of the country. Definitely culture clash.

Anyway, because of my long friendship with her fiance, I threw a small welcoming party for her and also made a special attempt to include her in activities. Instead of 'big city Black Friday', we have a community bazaar and flea market. So I invited her to go along.

Honestly, I couldn't tell if she was enjoying herself or not, since I'm not really familiar with her in the first place. But I just carried on and hoped that she wouldn't be too bored. We looked at lots of handmade things and even bought a few items here and there.

Then at one booth I found what I had been looking for for ages - the cream pitcher that goes with the sugar bowl for my set of dishes I got when we got married. The set had been discontinued years ago but I still loved using it, but I'd had no luck at all in finding a replacement cream pitcher.

Lo and behold, there it was. And in perfect condition. And with a VERY steep price tag. I nearly choked. After spending the little bit of money I'd brought with me, I didn't have enough left to buy it, even if it hadn't been so expensive. I didn't bring credit or debit cards either, or a checkbook, because most bazaar and flea market vendors only deal in cash. And I was out of cash by that point.

But I couldn't just let it go...not after looking for it unsuccessfully for years. I asked the vendor to hold it for me if she could, and give me time to get back before they closed today so I could buy it. The vendor asked for a deposit to hold the item, otherwise she might miss a possible sale later and what if I didn't come back to buy it?

No way was I going to borrow cash from my friend's fiancee. I didn't even know this person, not really, and she didn't know me. Not a good way to start a potential friendship.

Anyway I promised the vendor I'd be back before closing to get it, IF it was still there. At that point I was antsy to leave so I could run home and either get more cash from my husband or grab my checkbook. I wanted that cream pitcher so bad!

So we headed out to leave. My friend's fiancee then said something like, you know, I really wish I'd bought something-or-other for my mother, I think she would love it, do you mind if I just run back in for a second and grab it? I said sure, I'll just go get the car and bring it around and pick you up. So I did.

She had another package in her hands when I picked her up. No big deal. Obviously she could afford to spend more than I could, but that wasn't important. We both had bought several items that day, mine admittedly less expensive than hers, but hey, we both had packages.

She stashed her packages in the back seat next to mine. I was getting a little nervous about making it home and then back in time to grab that cream pitcher (if it was still there).

As we were leaving the parking lot, I noticed one of my neighbors, an elderly widow, standing outside her car and waving to me. I stopped. She said her car wouldn't start. Oh dear. Had she left her lights on? Maybe her battery was dead. Maybe she just needed a boost.

I popped the trunk on my car and grabbed the jumper cables always kept there for emergencies (thanks to my dear hubby for insisting on this!). I pulled my car up really close to hers and proceeded to try to jump start her car. (yes, hubby taught me how to do this, too!)

Nothing happened. Not even a rrr-rrr-rrrr. Nothing. Uh-oh. It's more serious than just a dead battery. I ask my elderly neighbor what she wants to do. Time is flying by and I'm worried that I'll miss that cream pitcher if I don't hurry.

She says she guesses she should get in touch with her nephew, since he's the only family she has left now. Fine. I offered my cell phone so she could call him. No answer. We waited a bit. Tried again. No answer.

She can't sit here by herself with a disabled car and no cell phone. And I can't sit here with her, waiting on a nephew who could be anywhere, because if I don't get that cream pitcher I'm going to just
cry.

So I offered to drive her home, and let her nephew deal with her car at his convenience. I helped her get her packages out of the vehicle and into mine, and settled her in. All the while my friend's fiancee was looking at us like, just call a freakin' taxi or something, what about triple-A, you must be the last person on earth who doesn't have a cell phone.

She didn't actually say these things, of course, but this is what I imagined going through her head at that time. Listen, city girl, you're in the country now and we do things differently here. Widows on fixed incomes without cell phones are common here. We're all neighbors. We help each other whenever we can.

Because you never know when it might be
you next that needs help.

So we had just left the flea market when my cell phone buzzed. It was the nephew, wondering who the heck was calling him from this number. I explained the situation and he said he could help, sure, but he was right in the middle of something and it would be a while.

No problem. I would see that the widow got home and he could take care of her later. Besides, I'm still anxious about that cream pitcher. It won't be long before the flea market closes. If nothing else goes wrong in the next 30 minutes...

About 10 miles down the road, my cell phone rang again. It was the nephew. Whatever was preventing him from coming earlier was no longer a problem, and he was on his way. Okay fine. I would still take the widow home because it was too cold for her to be stranded like that, even if her nephew got her car running again.

Another few minutes and my phone rang again. The nephew again. Well, guess what, he needs the KEYS to get into the car to be able to raise the hood and see what's wrong. In our (my) haste to get going, the widow had grabbed her keys as well as her packages.

What to do?? If I turn around and go back now, the flea market would be closed by the time I could get free again. I would miss the chance to buy that cream pitcher to complete my set that had been a wedding present... the pitcher I had been looking for ever since it got accidentally broken several years ago...

Oh well. Life is full of little disappointments. But people come before things. I knew that, even while I was debating this in my head, there was really only one answer.

I turned around and headed back.

I stayed as long as it took for the nephew to figure out what the problem was and get the car running again. Then I followed her home just to make sure she made it and didn't break down again on the road somewhere.

By this time, of course, the flea market was closed. Miss City Girl was smiling (or was that a smirk?). I was in a depressed funk because I'd missed out on my cream pitcher.

But life goes on. I dropped my friend's fiancee off at his parents' home where they were staying during their visit, and then I headed home myself. I kept thinking about that cream pitcher, and about what I was going to say to my childhood friend later when he asked me what did I think about his fiancee. I knew I would have to tell him the truth... but what was the truth?

Honestly, I hadn't had a chance yet to really get to know her. One flea market outing was not enough to form a decent opinion. And maybe I was being too hard on her to believe that she was bored out of her skull and impatient to be gone from this hick backwoods place.

As I grabbed my packages from the back seat to carry inside when I got home, I noticed one that didn't look familiar. Did it belong to the widow or the fiancee? It certainly wasn't mine. But I hated to be nosey and take a peek. It was none of my business what was in it.

But how else could I determine who it might belong to?

So I peeked. And my heart skipped a beat. There, nestled lovingly in tissue paper and surrounded by newspaper padding, was the cream pitcher.

Not just any cream pitcher.

The cream pitcher.

Even then my mind didn't accept the probability. Had the widow bought it? Did she have the same set I did, or did she just love the pattern?

Or did my friend's fiancee - Miss City Girl, as I so ungraciously referred to her - purchase it for her mother, who might also have the same set? Or did she - and this one really mortified me that it even crossed my mind - did she buy it just so I
couldn't get my hands on it?

And what the heck was the matter with me that I could even entertain such a thought?!

I held that pitcher in my hand and thumbed the number into my cell. When she answered, I said I think you left a package in my car. She kind of giggled a little and said no, she didn't, she got all her packages.

I said well, I know I didn't buy this cream pitcher, so it must belong to the widow we had helped out. She giggled again. Nope, the pitcher was for me. She just wanted to find a way to thank me for being so gracious and welcoming to a stranger, and since she'd noticed how much I really wanted that cream pitcher, she figured that was a good 'thank you'.

I felt the tears prick behind my eyes.

And I knew that later, when my friend asked what I thought of his fiancee, the silly grin on my face would tell him all he needed to know.

Merry Christmas! I hope you receive lots of lovely unexpected surprise gifts!


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