Flowers perfumed my neighborhood market, splashes of sunshine on a summer morning.
…but after a long walk on the beach, I had a single purchase in mind.
“One blueberry scone, please,” I said to the woman behind the bakery counter.
She chose the pastry with the plumpest berries, swaddled it with parchment paper before sliding it into a paper bag. Brown eyes twinkling, she presented it to me like a gift.
“Thank you,” I said. Just then, I caught my reflection in the bakery case. My eyes were bright and my cheeks were rosy, but my clothes were rumpled and wet. Hair clung to my scalp in limp curls, tousled by salty breezes and dampened by fog.
“Beach hair,” I said with a shrug.
“Ah, sí!” she said, “I get that, too.”
“Do you go down there on your breaks?”
“No time,” she said, “but my family goes down to Puerto Vallarta in July…”
“Oh! That’s really soon! You must be excited!”
She turned away, wiping invisible crumbs from the counter and blinking hard. “Not this year,” she eventually said. “No money.”
There weren’t any other customers around, and –here’s the real gift–she felt safe in telling me the whole story. Mexico is her birthplace. Her father lives there, still. Her siblings have scattered to the winds, but the family reconvenes in her hometown every year. In beautiful Puerto Vallarta, they shrug off their worries and embrace their cultural traditions. Mañana will take care of itself; for one week every year, they’re able to live together in the moment.
“But not this year,” she said with a sigh. But then she brightened. “We have great memories though! My daughter is really little, but she remembers…”
I wanted to give her daughter the memories of a life time, but that’s not within my power. “Oh hey, I know!” I scrolled quickly through my cell phone, showed her some recent pictures of Freckles.
She admired his tender brown eyes and giggled at his goofy poses. “¿Dónde?” she asked.
“Not more than five minutes from here!” I said. And then I let her in on my secret. I told her a little bit about Freckles, showed her how to coordinate the tide tables with his haul-out times, and pinpointed his lounging spots on a map.
“Oh, my daughter will love him!”
I nodded. “You, too. We all do.”
She eventually rang up my order, and when she counted back my change, we mirrored each other’s smiles. As new friends do.
I slid the scone onto a pretty blue plate–a “happy” for my husband. He smiled, but his forehead was wrinkled with worry. “You’ve got dark smudges under your eyes,” he said. “Go look in the mirror.”
Mascara was sliding down my face, swirled together with saltwater tears. I laughed at my reflection, and I swear, my heart grew three sizes.
Here, another serendipitous encounter–seemingly random, but maybe not. I don’t claim to understand it, but I am grateful for yet another gift from the sea.