Monday, May 11, 2009

Back on the Wagon

I got back on the wagon last week and gave away stars again. It felt great, better even than I remembered. The surprise with which people meet their stars gives me a little thrill every time. Young or old, it doesn't matter. A little puffy, glittery gold star offers something special, no one can deny. I guess some people might deny, but I haven't encountered any of them lately.

In line for coffee early in the week, a little blonde curly-haired boy was making cute expressive faces at a man ahead of him. The man was making faces back, had probably started the game, I surmised. "Are you his father?" I asked, as they looked alike but I had seen the man come in alone. "No," the man said, "although he looks like my son."

I took out a gold star to give to the boy, for being so fun and funny with a stranger, and, as I handed it to him, he handed me his chewed-up cracker bit in exchange. He couldn't have been more than three, but apparently he had learned early that you don't get something for nothing.

"That's okay," I said, trying to hand back the cracker. But he wouldn't take it.

"It's okay," his mom piped in, "you can keep your cracker..."

He wouldn't, though. He had the star, I was to have the cracker. I placed the cracker back in his bowl. I hope neither of us has anything communicable, but, I thought, c'est la vie if we do. Sometimes things get passed around when you share with your community.

"That's a sign of early graciousness," I said to his mother about her son's need to exchange the star for something of his own. She smiled.

"Thanks," she said.

On my way out, I gave a gold star to the man who'd been standing in line, for his own little blonde boy, or for himself.

When I walked down into the subway station, got to the turnstile, I saw a man, dressed in civilian garb, not an MTA uniform, enter through the gate with a key. He just looked like a regular guy headed to the city for work, he just happened to be lucky enough to have a key. The idea made me laugh as I, stupidly, paid the fare. I should have a key, I thought, everyone should.

Though I hadn't asked, my laugh made the man explain. "I work here," he said.

"I figured," I said, "It just makes so much sense, to have a key."

He nodded. "I know," he said. "It makes it so much easier." He walked down the stairs going the other direction before I could give him a star. Too bad.

For some reason, it was hilarious. We should all have keys to the subway. Life should be made easier. If only.

The next day, a woman sat next to me at a table at Parco. She felt guilty taking up a whole table for two when she was just one. I told her not to worry. If someone else wanted to sit with her, she could let them, and anyway, she was deserving on her own to sit where she wanted. "You're right," she said. "I need room to write."

She took out a handful of postcards and began to fill them out. I was envious. I can't remember the last time I wrote a postcard. I was supposed to have written them as part of an exercise I did for The Artist's Way, but instead I chickened out and sent notes on Facebook. I told this woman that I admired her, that I had gone the more modern route recently and regretted it.

"I don't even have a lot of people's real addresses," I said.

"I know," she said, "people say 'Oh, you're going to send snail mail..."

"See?!" I said, "we even have a pejorative term for it, 'snail mail.' It's so sad!!"

"It is," she said, and went back to writing postcards.

As I walked out, I took my gold stars out and gave her one.

"Wow," she said in thanks, "you just keep those in your purse? That's cool!"

"Yep," I said. "Bye!" I waved to her and to my friend behind the counter who stood there clapping her hands together in excitement. She loves it when I give out my gold stars. I do too.

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