We've recently had quite a lot of snow in New England ... all at once. I don't know which is worse - two feet of snow in one night, or two feet of snow spread out over a month. It's sort of like the way I looked at my first two children's birth stories. The first one took days with 27 hours of active labor. The second one took an hour and twenty minutes. Looking back, I really can't decide which one I preferred, as they were both overwhelming.
With all the snow and clean-up, which is still far from over, the customers have been sparse, but today brought an interesting story. We were helping a woman get into her safe deposit box. We've recently moved everything online which has created some challenges for us, as we are in an older branch and sometimes the computer doesn't match the paperwork. No problem though, just a little extra work to make the computer match, as paper is the trump. In her case (we'll call her Sarah), only her mother (we'll call her Mildred) was listed in the computer - and it was frustrating her that it was taking a little longer. I stepped in to explain that we'd certainly take care of her need today, but if she could bring Mildred in the next time, I'd be happy to clear this up. Sarah said that would be difficult, as Mildred didn't get out a lot. I started to brainstorm out loud how I could make this happen for them, looking up Mildred's info to try and make it easier. I noticed that everything was very outdated, and it was going to be a bit of a challenge.
Then Sarah looked at me and said, "ok ... my mother died 15 years ago. I've been negligent in fixing this, because I couldn't bear the thought of taking her name off the box. Isn't that crazy of me?" And the way she looked at me, her eyes welling up with tears ... I completely understood. She had her hands in front of her on my desk. So I reached over and placed my hand on top of hers. I told her she wasn't crazy at all. I told her that my mother's desk sits in my bedroom. I told her that each drawer is unchanged from the way she left it.
I didn't tell her that the middle drawer has her fabric markers in it, her scissors - one labeled in her handwriting "fabric only," sharpened pencils I will never use. The top right drawer has special trinkets and little metal boxes filled with necessities. The top left drawer has her handmade address book filled with family birthdays and lists she was working on. (She always made lists.) There's a list of things to do "when I get out of the hospital" - that one stings every time I read it. It has a little book of poetry that she collected over the years, writing some of it out by hand, others photocopied, some her own. The novena she used to pray during intense times of tribulation is at the front. The bottom right drawer holds my baby book. It used to hold my sister and brother's books, but I thought it only right to give them their books. The bottom left drawer was empty, so I added some of my own files. It gives me a pretend reason to be in the desk, instead of looking over the things she used to touch.
When my customer was done looking at her safe deposit box, she came to say goodbye to me. She took her wallet out of her purse and showed me a tiny black and white photo of a young woman in the outside plastic pocket. She said, "This is my buddy. She's always with me."