My favorite of all of these stories is the time in the late '70's when I was working as a waitress in a coffee shop in a large mall in Dayton, OH. A man stood in the back, staring at me. Putting it mildly, this was very disconcerting. Who was this man? Why was he starring at me. I felt uncomfortable. Exposed. Nervous.
He was starring at me because at first he wasn't sure if I was the same person. To the best of my knowledge, he had only encountered me one time.
Another encounter which was also a total surprise came during a rest stop on the New York State Thruway a few years back. Someone called my name. I looked around. Didn't see anyone I knew. Kept on going. Then my husband said, "MamaBear, I think someone's calling you." He was right. It was a woman I hadn't seen in years, a former co-worker from Kitchener, ON.
What are the chances of meeting people you know hundreds of miles from "the scene of the crime"? Infinitesimal? Slim to nill?
What are the chances of meeting someone you know or knew on the streets of your own hometown? A large, industrial city in Southern Ontario? What are the chances of meeting former co-workers in offices, medical practices, etc.? Still slim but still probably. Much more probable than the first scenario.
Today, I recount the tale of two recent encounters. Both different. One good. One bad. Both involving people I knew from the same situation. One still there. One, like myself, gone.
Both people had encouraged me in a difficult space. Not by words spoken, but by actions. Smiles. Treating me like a valued person. Friendly in a hostile environment. Not friends. But friendly.
|The "creative genuis" in action|
My one and only photo t-shirt
She treated me like a human being when I needed that. She smiled at me. She engaged in chit chat with me. I treasured her and valued her for that. She was a blessing, a bright spot, in an otherwise dark place.
However ... my sixth sense, that pesky radar attuned to currents emanating from people, was in action. Big time. Actually overtime. Warning me. Telling me things I didn't want to hear. I made a fatal mistake. I ignored it. Turned it off. Told it to shut up.
My logic was wrong.
I smiled at this unexpected encounter. I plunged in without testing the water first. Immediately telling this woman how glad I was to see her. How much she had meant to me during this time in my life. How I had wanted to have the opportunity to tell her this.
At that point, something went wrong. What happened next is hard for me to put into words as I do not understand it. I will probably never understand it. While I was trying to build a bridge between us, I felt an unexplainable, unassailable wall come up. A solid wall. A high wall. A barrier between two people. I felt something in the way. She was not receiving my words or the intent behind them. Why? I don't know. I'll probably never know. I can read currents. I cannot read others' thoughts.
|the sophisticated one?|
Instead, I felt I was verbally attacked. Not once. Several times.
I felt violated. I felt incredible tension and hostility emanating from this person.
In the end, she made it very clear that the two of us could not co-exist in the same waiting room.
I could not deal with the hostility which I sensed bombarding me like emotionally sharp daggers. I left.
|the gardener at rest|
Once outside, away from the what I now realize was a violent assault in the form of verbally abusive behaviour, I started shaking. I began to cry. Nay. I wailed. Like a child bereft of its mother.
I felt trapped. I was there in that office at that particular time, that particular day to drive poor Papa Bear to an appointment. I felt trapped. I had to wait for him. I could not just drive off into the sunset. Every part of my body was in full flight mode. But I could not flee.
The second encounter took place less than two weeks later. Again, someone who had been friendly at a time when I needed a friend in that same situation, that same place. In the years since she left, I had run into her a couple of times at the immigration office where she now works. She was there the day I became a Canadian citizen. She helped make my day special by
enthusiastically congratulating me. She was a blessing when I sorely needed one.
My encounter with her happened on a city street, at a bus stop. After encounter #one, I admit that I was afraid to approach her. Yet, I did. My radar, in stand down mode. Emitting neutral currents. No full alerts. We embraced. I told her how much she meant to me. She responded telling me how much I had meant to her. That I was always friendly. I treated her with dignity and respect. We shared good memories of our association together. It was good.
|the shadow of the woman I once was|
Two different encounters. One message. Two different outcomes. Which one reflects the true Mama Bear?
I'll let you, the reader, decide.