You don’t know me. You might recognize my face because you’ve been helping me fix stuff for probably a decade. I figure we have an open relationship; you help other customers, I ask for guidance from other orange aprons. To you, I’m probably another face in a sea of customers and I get that. After all, you see a lot of people in a day.
Despite what sounds like a full-on Yankee accent, you are awfully good at making me feel welcome. You also don’t make me feel stupid when I come in grimy from whatever I’m fixing – even though you know I broke it despite my lies to the contrary. I appreciate that.
I doubt you’ve noticed, but lately when I see you across the store, I almost always duck down an aisle. It’s nothing personal. We’re still on good terms, you and me. You have no way of knowing what happens in my life when I leave Home Depot #6978. Although I’ve managed to keep my home and yard in a relatively good state of repair, my life’s been more of a challenge to fix. You might point me to adhesives in aisle five, but they haven’t made one strong enough yet.
When my youngest daughter, Kylie, was little, I called her Dr. Stoopandfetch because she loved to be my helper. She also loved to come to your store with me. One Saturday, we were walking through and heard hammering that piqued our curiosity. We followed the sound to the lumber section where you were instructing kids on building birdhouses. Because every space was full, we were about to leave… until you saw us.
You approached her and said that there might be one more kit if Kylie wanted join the group. It was as if you’d been keeping one in reserve, just in case. You dug it out, found a spot, and caught her up to speed. Kylie had a ball. She was so proud of that little birdhouse because she made it herself. I wish I had taken a picture of her with it. I wish I could show you her smile. But I didn’t know then just how precious the memory would be.
That’s the problem with life. When we’re living the good times, we have no way of knowing that they might actually be the best times and their supply may be finite. If only we had the foresight to see those times as they truly are… to place the appropriate value on the moments that matter and squander nothing.
We lost Kylie to cancer two years ago. My supply of memories is limited to the twelve years she lived: the best of times. Those memories are little nuggets that keep her with me – trips to the zoo, wrestling matches in the den, songs sung at inappropriate levels, and a surprise Saturday morning birdhouse class.
Her apron hangs on a nail beside mine. Every time I see it, it reminds me of running errands to Home Depot and that day when there wasn’t room for her… until you made a place. You fabricated that memory out of some pine, a little glue, and kindness. Thank you for that.
That’s why I dodge you sometimes. Because when I see you, I remember. And while it is a good memory, it hurts a little too. I don’t think I could express just how much it means without a disintegrating into a blubbering mess. I’m guessing they discourage that kind of thing at the Home Depot. But hey, at least aisle three has plenty of mops and paper towels to wipe it up.
Thanks for that memory,