A Penny For Your Thoughts
“So, how old are your kids?” I asked Penny, the lady who was cutting my hair. We had been making small talk, and as my family and I were just a few days away from Christmas and in the warm climate of Bluffton, South Carolina instead of our frigid home suburb just outside of DC, I was in an exceedingly good mood ( I LOATHE the cold).
“I have a 28 year old and a ten year old,” she replied.
My eyebrows went up in surprise. My wife and I have three kids — a 15 year old girl, a 12 year old boy, and a 5 year old girl. To put it bluntly, our 5 year old is absolutely adorable and we love her, but she was an “Ooops”. I don’t often meet people who have children that vary in age so vastly more than our own.
“Wow!” I exclaimed. “You guys really hit the reset button”.
“Yeah” she said, and there must have been sorrow in her voice, but I missed it as I was caught up in my own world.
We made more small talk and I said it must be really cool for the two siblings who are 18 years apart.
“Well, we did have more kids,” she said.
“Oh? What happened?”
“Oh my God, may i ask how? If it is too personal Penny I …”
“No, it is ok. They died in a house fire.”
“ I am SO SO sorry. Two?”
Silence. What do you say?
“ They were spending the night at their grandparents’ house with their cousins just outside of Buffalo.”
“Did the cousins and grandparents survive?”
“ And your oldest….was he there at the house when it burned too”
“ I just can’t believe it.”
“It’s hard to believe. We had to leave there. I owned a salon there and everything.”
“You must be so angry.”
“Being angry doesn’t change what happened. All that we can do as survivors is try to live the rest of our lives as well as we can. You have to find a way to go on.”
I thought about all the trivial shit that rattles me. I thought about how I flicked some off on the way to the Sports Clips not a half hour ago. I thought about how I had yelled at my 12 year old, who was with me, because he had been unable to find his shoes. I thought about all the myriad things that I have allowed to bring me down or piss me off and how utterly insignificant they were in light of what this incredibly strong woman has had to contend with.
We talked a bit more, and we wished each other a Merry Christmas. Then I hugged my bewildered son.
I left that day with a fresh haircut and a fresh perspective.