I have no idea what it is about me that makes people tell me their dark secrets or life stories.
Last week I was at the local dollar store and made some comment to the cashier about needing to be more careful about what I spend since Christmas is coming up.
“I know,” she said. “I’m overdoing it this year because my daughters’ father died this year and I just want Christmas to be special for them.”
Not only was I sad to hear about the passing of their dad, but it struck me how we never know what people are going through in their lives. It also struck me that I had no idea why she was sharing this with me.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I’m guessing you two weren’t together anymore?”
“No, but it’s still hard. Actually, it was harder than I thought it would be.”
“Well, just because people divorce or split up, there can still be good memories attached to that person,” I told her.
She agreed, I paid for my things and told her I’d be praying for her and her daughters this Christmas.
Three or four days later I’m at the local, tiny playground with my daughter. It has been unseasonably warm and on this day it was about 70 out. We’ve lived here for about eight months and have visited the playground several Jim times but I’ve never seen this many children there. There are only a small playground set, teeter-totters and a two-person swing set, and a basketball court (there is also a Little League field that isn’t being used). There were 15 children at this place and I was wigging out a little bit, grabbing for the hand sanitizer. Anyhow, there were two girls there about 10-years old and one of them kept watching us. I had a feeling she wanted to talk and I wasn’t sure I wanted to talk. She wasn’t wearing shoes and her face and clothes were somewhat dirty.
She leaned against the swing set and watched me push my daughter.
“Hello,” I said. “How are you?”
“Good. I’ve been down here since 11 (It was 5). My dad doesn’t care what I do. All he does is talk to his girlfriend on the phone and tell me to ‘shut up’.”
“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. Do you live with him?”
“Yep. I didn’t used to, but I do now.”
“Oh. You don’t live with your mom?”
“No. My mom’s dead.”
When she said her mom was dead, she flinched a little. Maybe the part about her mom was a lie or maybe it was something her dad had told her to keep the truth from her. I don’t know.
Before I knew it, I was learning that she used to live with her aunt, her dad was around my age, and she had half-siblings and another one on the way with the new girlfriend.
I have no idea why she felt the need to tell me all about her life, but there I was with all kinds of anxiety inside me about this girl’s safety and future when all I’d wanted to do was get my daughter some fresh air on an unseasonably warm day.
I watched the two girls walk home, drove past where they said they lived, hoping they got there okay, and then prayed for them on the way home.
Edited to add: I don’t live far from this girl’s apartment house so I will drive by to check on her. I do think she was probably okay but for some reason wanted to share with me and may have been talked some things up a bit, so to speak. I’m not sure.
The next week Little Miss and I were down the street talking to our neighbor and her granddaughters. The one neighbor on the street we haven’t met came out and I said ‘hello.’ We struck up a conversation as we walked up the street (a little less than six feet apart but not much less) and by the time we reached his house, a few yards away, I had learned where he was originally from, he had a daughter who lived three hours away, his wife is a photographer and an accountant, who used to live in his house, who used to live in each house up the street, that a compressor is in the big white building behind his house, that he used to have six cats, but now he only has four and he used to own two Akita dogs. Oh, and I learned about the new owner of one of the houses on the street and what that man does for a living.
I texted this all to my husband who asked, “What did you do? Get his whole life story?”
“I don’t get it,” I said to my husband later that night. “Why do people tell me everything about themselves? I mean I don’t mind, but it’s weird. What about me says ‘Tell her all my secrets and life story.’?”
“You have a motherly feeling about you,” my husband said.
I think that might translate to “You’re plump and harmless looking and they know you couldn’t chase them down like some crazy person because you’d run out of air in six steps.”