I sat at the car wash, wondering how much longer it would take, wishing I’d postponed this deviation from my tightly wrought schedule. My son had begged me to get it washed, something new for him, so there I was. It could have waited until I had finished my day’s work and chores and ambitions. But those never get finished. I may as well have a clean car to go along with unmet goals.
I readied a big tip (mindful of the myriad ways Carwasheros are shorted by employers), when a “hello how are you” acquaintance sat near me. For years, we have said hello, exchanged smiles as we pass in or out of the elementary school, but our kids are different ages, she has girls and I have boys, and we have never had occasion to go beyond pleasantries.
Except today she carried a book in her hand. A hardback book, I’m saying. Not a Kindle. A short story collection in hardback. Not an Oprah’s choice. We talked.
She said how with three little girls short stories are her only hope. That naturally led me to plug Aimee Bender, local girl made extraordinary, and eventually a sheepish admission to me being a writer and mentioning I’d published a book.
“What’s it called?”
“I have that. I pick it up all the time.”
“No, you don’t. You have something else that sounds like it.” How could someone not my mother or my best friend have my book on her shelf, and turn to it all the time?
She was certain. “Did they sell it at Village Books?”
“Yes, I did a reading there.” She found my book when searching for inspiration on the shelves of an independent book store, now empty and locked, after the birth of her youngest daughter. My book lives on her shelf with Mothers Who Think, and Brain, Child, two books that inspired my own.
I give thanks for the unexpected gifts a chance decision to run an errand may bring: That every “hello how are you” acquaintance has a unique story and sometimes we are privileged to meet each other in a deeper way if we’re open to it. That my writing has a life beyond my imagination, which may sustain people I have never met. And that a book (even when held in your hand) has the power to break through the mundane to make meaningful connections.