Today I was out shopping and I stopped at the Dairy Queen on Cork Street for lunch. It was starting to rain hard. Part of me wanted to drive straight home--I'm 60 and my knee was hurting--but my 23-year-old self was calling me inside.
It was hectic at the bank. You worked hard and you could not be back late from lunch--even if someone made you late leaving for it. But if I could leave my window exactly on time, if I could turn left on Sprinkle Road without much delay, if I could safely run any yellow lights, and if the service was prompt.... I could eat an almost-tranquil lunch at the Dairy Queen.
But it wasn't really a competition. She knew, silk blouse notwithstanding, I was feeling very sorry for her. I know she hates her job and that she never has much spending money. I know she misses college, she misses learning things that aren't accounting-related. I know she has seven more years before she finally gets to leave that soul-destroying bank, though she won't spend much more time in the teller window. It will be a long while before she finds her dream job at the library--a library! I know she's jealous of that.
But she has advantages too. She's a newlywed. She gets to spend Christmas with our parents--her mom and dad are still alive. They come and visit her and our husband; they play poker and pedro; they go on vacations to the U.P. together. All that has sadly vanished for Present Ruth.
She asked me, trying not to be in too obvious a hurry, if I had any advice for her. I could see in her face she hoped I did, that she hoped I'd learned something. And I have. I've learned everything I need to know. And one thing I know is, she doesn't need advice--she is doing everything exactly right, even though she doesn't know it. She is learning all the things I draw on every day, all the things I need her to learn so that I can be who I am right now, more comfortable with myself than she is with herself, but absolutely dependent on her. I smiled my most encouraging smile, hoping she hadn't noticed that our two front teeth have grown a little apart again after she was so proud that they had grown together.
She had to rush back to work. She ducked through the rain to her blue sedan as I strolled unperturbedly though the rain to my blue sedan. I saw her laughing at how deliberately I was taking my sweet time. She knew I was doing it for her.