Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Encountering chance

A few mornings ago, my mom, my dad, and my sister Jeanne were eating breakfast at a known-for-its-biscuits cafe. They were almost finished when Mom spotted a well-dressed woman sitting alone a few tables away.

"She looks just like Carol!" whispered Mom to Jeanne, referring to a woman with whom she used to work. Mom kept looking at the woman, who smiled and waved a bit.

She wasn't Carol, but Mom felt compelled to talk to her anyway. If you knew my mother, this would not surprise you in the least. If you don't know her, well, I wish you did. She is quite possibly the most interested, interesting, energetic and compassionate person you could ever hope to meet. Oh, and she's pretty adorable, too. But I digress.

Turns out the woman is 82 ("I couldn't believe it when she told me that!" Mom said). She's from New York (like Mom). Her first name is Lorraine; her last Coghlin (the same as Mom's sister).

"Honey," Mom told me later, "we probably talked for at least 20 minutes. We just had this connection."

Lorraine said that perhaps fate brought her and Mom together.

"Maybe we were meant to meet each other today," she said. "When I was working, a man came into the office not long after my brother had died. He reminded me so much of my brother, it was uncanny. I almost didn't tell him that, but I did.

"He thanked me, of all things. He said maybe he needed to be at my office that day for a reason. Maybe it was to help me find some peace about my brother's death."

"We just don't know, do we?" Mom said, repeating what she had said to Lorraine. She paused and I sensed she was also asking me, yet not expecting an answer.

In the course of their conversation, Mom told Lorraine how much she enjoys her part-time job in the lingerie section of a department store. By the time the two parted ways, Lorraine had decided to apply at Neiman's or Nordstrom's.

"It sounds like such fun," she said. "I'll let you know."

She and Mom exchanged phone numbers and email addresses. They vowed to see each other again. Before saying goodbye, Lorraine shared one more thought.

"This," she said, "is a miracle."

In 20 minutes, you can get your bangs trimmed. You can fold clothes, or jog two miles, or address a dozen Christmas cards. You can butter your toast and sip your coffee and catch up with those at your table.

Or you can channel my mom as you set your cup in its saucer and catch the eyes of a stranger. Someone who, for reasons you'll never know, just happened to pick the same place to eat, on the same day, at the same time, as you. Reasons that, 20 minutes later, really don't matter much at all.


Camille LaRue Olsen said...

This is my favorite story of yours I've ever heard. Too cool!

Connie said...

Camille shared this with me and I have to say that I adore your mother! Quite moving.