Maybe a bit cliché, but the experience felt significant. I was stressed out at work the other night, trying not to show it because the store was full of customers. A little girl, probably three or four years old, walked up to the register with her father while I was hanging some T-shirts during a rare slow moment. She was wearing one of the pink floral kid's rain coats we sell. Her dad asked if she could wear it out of the store, but he hadn't removed the tags. So I said that would be fine and asked her to step around the cash wrap (she looked up at him to make sure it was all right and heard him repeat my instructions before she obeyed). Then I scanned the bar code dangling beneath her left armpit as she held her arm straight out in the air like I'd showed her.
Afterwards I stood up to complete the transaction. I expected her to run back around the counter to rejoin her dad. Instead she stayed there with her arm still out to the side, looking up at me like she wanted something else. "Your rain coat looks gorgeous," I said, not knowing what else to do. Children know so many mysteries I've forgotten and can't regain that I often feel intimidated and awkward in their presence. But like the rest, she wasn't interested in anything I thought I had to offer.
"Kisses," she said quietly, raising her left arm higher toward me and lifting the other to match it. It was neither a question nor a demand. She just believed that if she asked, it would happen. I was jealous.
"Mandy," her father whined, trying to get her to stop bothering the nice cashier-lady. He glanced at me apologetically.
"Oh," I said, "I don't mind. You've been very patient, Mandy." I got down on my haunches and hugged her upper back while she wrapped her clammy fingers around my neck. The plastic coating of her jacket crinkled against my ears. Then we let go and I bent my face closer so she could touch her lips to my cheek. I felt as though the longer I left the spot alone to dry, the more of her peacefulness would rub off on me and help me through the rest of my shift...
Tonight I helped a customer who reminded me WAY too much of an old friend. Way too much. Same face, same eyes, same posture, same sarcastic sense of humor - only less audacious, which I realized was a huge part of what I missed and loved about my friend. I never quite know how to feel when that happens so I usually end up feeling several emotions at once: sadness, nostalgia, anger, joy, melancholy... I guess that probably means I haven't yet let go. But then, I sort of wonder whether I should let go just yet. As sad as it feels to miss _____, I don't want to forget the times we shared, either. Those times comprise some of my favorite memories. You know, the ones that still make you laugh out loud seven years later?