It’s a drizzly, dreary day but love is in the air nonetheless. An older couple comes into the antique mall. They spend a long time looking in every booth. The wife examines things, decides, and unfolds vintage linens to scrutinize them while her husband grunts nearby.
“I love old tablecloths!” I say slyly as I watch her ponder over my assortment of linens. To my delight, she chooses two. She pays no heed to her husband who says,
“You have too many of them.” But really, he doesn’t care. She buys them, along with some Corning Ware and Fire King au gratin dishes.
Ah, love. Husbands and wives shopping together.
A bald man comes in with his lovely going gray-haired wife. I’d say they are at least late fifties, most likely in their sixties. They grab a cart and leisurely breeze through the mall. At last, they arrive at the counter and unload their stuff. I begin wrapping while my co-worker tallies up the goods.
“So what brings you here to our mall on Valentine’s Day?” asks my co-worker, C.
“Actually, it’s our anniversary! We took off work and decided to go antiquing,” the wife says, her face glowing. The four of us chat for a while, about Valentine’s Day, antiques, marriage and grandchildren. They bought vintage children’s books from a series called the Honey Bunch Books, first published in the 1920s. The books, they said, were extra special because their last name is Bunch. Mr. and Mrs. Bunch. So their grandchildren are little Bunches. I love it!
While the Bunches make their purchase, a tall fashion-savvy lady with graying hair is combing the booths. She darts up to the counter, asking if we have some kind of canning pressure cooker. We shake our heads, but she scurries on her quest to find something. I am thinking she needs a little pick-me-up on this Valentine’s Day.
She spots something in a case and I run over with the key to help. “Oh, I thought it was a stop-watch. It’s not. It’s some kind of gauge.” I apologize and empathize with her disappointment. Eventually, she finds something. It is some kind of old kitchen sifter.
“Happy Valentine’s Day!” C and I say. “Any plans?”
She makes a noise that is the combination of a guffaw, grunt and laugh. She looks at me and says, “Are you married?” And I say ‘yes’.
“Um, well….” she says with bitterness in her face. Then C tells her,
“I was married for 23 years and then he died.”
And I say, “I was married for 23 years and he left. And now I’m married again.”
The tall nicely dressed lady says, “Well, it’s so hard, especially the second time. My sister did it and I feel so sorry for her. It’s NOT good! There’s so much he didn’t REVEAL to her, until they were married. Like he’s impotent. And he’s got a slew of debt from his CHILDREN’S college loans.” She made such an angry face when she said DEBT from his CHILDREN.
A young man comes in looking for a macrame owl. He says his wife wants one for Valentine’s Day. Remember macrame? It was all the rage in the 70s. We don’t have any but I hope he found one in time to surprise her.
A father in his seventies comes in with his adult son. They are regular customers who collect old model trains. So they stop and chat with us. The dad, a widower on a fixed income, starts complaining about his water bill. I sense something about him, but I’m not sure. The conversation escalates about corrupt politicians, unscrupulous real estate investors, and other complaints.
Then the old man says, “But my HOPE is in JESUS CHRIST.” To which I shout a hearty “AMEN!” I knew there was something about him, something in my spirit bearing witness with his.
C does not really have a clue about our discussion from that point on. I fear she is unsaved. She tells me she goes to a Presbyterian church, just like me. But she goes to the kind that ordain women and never mention our sin. C, who is in her late 60s, has a relationship with her boyfriend but no commitment. I am praying for her.
The old man and I share some truth and babble on about today’s apostasy of American churches. I invite the old man and his son to my church because he says he doesn’t know where to go anymore.
A sharply dressed middle-aged black man wanders through the mall, talking loudly on his cell phone. C and I go off to look at her booth. She wants me to help her redecorate it. We get a little too wrapped up in that. It’s almost closing time.
The black man is waiting patiently at the counter. “We’re so sorry,” C says, “You should have rung the bell!”
“Oh that’s just fine,” he says, “It gave me more time to look around at all this great stuff. There’s a lot of interesting stuff in here.”
“Yes indeed,” I say. I see that he selected a very unusual vintage lamp, 10 vinyl records – Peabo Bryson was on top (and it looked like romantic music), and 2 empty ring boxes.
“Oh boy,” I say, “You’ve got Valentine’s evening all set: soft lighting, romantic music and ring boxes!”
“No, no, no,” he said, laughing. “I’m gonna get me some of that Haagen-Dazs ice cream, some DVDs and just relax…” Ah, a single guy. He threw us a hundred dollar bill and change and went his merry way.
We start shutting the lights. It’s closing time. A pretty young black lady comes in before we get a chance to lock up. “We’re closing,” says C.
“I’m just gonna be one minute,” the young lady says. “I want some cigars that my man likes. The 2 for $25 ones.” (Yes, we sell antiques…and cigars.) She wasn’t exactly sure which ones he likes and we have several that are 2 for $25. We help her decide and say,
“Hope he likes them!”
She says, “Me too! Happy Valentine’s Day!”
“Happy Valentine’s Day!” we yell back. We lock the door.
Happy Valentine’s Day to the vintage-lover wife with the grunting but obliging husband. And to the young man and his wife who loves macrame owls. Happy Valentine’s Day to the Bunches who celebrated their anniversary today. Happy Valentine’s Day to the bitter divorcee. I hope she finds real love some day. I hope the Haagen-Dazs tasted really good to the man who bought the lamp, the vinyl records and the ring boxes. Maybe he’ll present a ring to a lady one day. And I hope that man loved the cigars that his girl rushed in for.
An especially Happy Valentine’s Day to the old widower and his son who know and love the only One who loves them with an Everlasting Love. I hope I see them in church Sunday!