We visited family over the Thanksgiving holiday, a.k.a. "Digestive Thursday." My parents' house was full of Turkey, Gravy, and Mashed Potatoes. There was plenty of food too. I managed to drag my husband out to shop on Black Friday, ignoring the celebration of Buy Nothing Day entirely. The lure prices slashed so greatly is just too hard to ignore.
Shopping in the town where I spent my high school years is always a frightening prospect. Being from a relatively small town, this sort of venture into the unknown folds of society can have a full range of scary results. We looked disheveled. Two days of eating and drinking and standing in line for the bathroom will do that to you. We parked the car and both sat there briefly to scare-up the courage to go inside. "Please," I voiced a small prayer aloud, "don't let us see anyone we know."
We haven't really stayed in contact with many of our acquaintances from the "old days." It's not that continuing to live in the same town where we grew up is any indicator that these people are mentally challenged. We knew plenty of nice people there but we rarely ran into them since we moved away. Most of them have since moved on themselves.
As we wandered the aisles of Shopko looking for the bargains that had disappeared into the carts of the 6am shoppers, I felt slightly relieved. It was almost like shopping happily anonymous in the big city near where we live. Everywhere I was greeted by the faces of strangers, precisely as I had hoped.
Then, as we were in the checkout line my husband began shouting out behind me. "John!" I whirled around, trying to remember which John it could be. It was John, my husband's former Big Brother from the Big Brothers and Sisters program. John was waving with a dubious look on his face. It had truly been years since we'd seen him and he didn't recognize Jason on first glance. Was it the impending baldness?
I have, in the past, vowed to myself that I would never be shocked by developments that could be blamed on the passage of time. I swore that I wouldn't gasp "I can't believe it's you, after all these years!" when greeting a friend who looked like the time between visits had taken a great toll. I was determined never to utter "Has it been THAT long?" after learning of the birth of an acquaintance's dozen children who are all roughly the age I was when I last saw their mother or father.
Poor John who was already at a disadvantage because he had managed to lose his wife and children in the mall was confronted with this stranger who seemed to know his name a little too well. When Jason had finally coaxed him over and recognition spread across his face, he still seemed confused. It's sort of that deer-in-the-headlights phenomenon that happens when men, forced to shop, find themselves alone in a store with nobody to steer them down aisles.
We discovered that the young children and infant twins were all in upper grades and that the oldest was now a college freshman. Finally, John and Jason seemed to get into the groove of bouncing life's developments back and forth like a game of ping pong. These news flashes never seem as big out of the condensed fast-forward version of our lives that we swap with others in the middle of a public place. Half of the time, I'm shocked by the real changes that my own life has seen when described in this format.
Jason introduced our 9 year-old daughter whom John had never met and described what has been going on over the past decade. It was a welcome reunion, even given our casual meets pajamas state at the time.