Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Rest Is Done With Mirrors

So, this morning I glanced over at David (we sit side by side in our office) and this time when I remarked "That chair is ridiculously small for you," I did it out loud. And then I said we should get another one on Craigslist. Then I did something even more uncharacteristic--I followed through. I looked up "office chair" and studied the results. There were a lot. On the second page, there was a chair for only $20 that looked suitably capacious for my rangy man. Even better, there was a little note: "This chair lives in a pet and smoke-free home." Well, it wouldn't have occurred to me to ask, but that seemed like two for the plus column. (Note: I am not anti-pet. I love pets. But we don't currently have any, so bringing hair-covered furniture into our home seems like putting the cart before the cat, or something like that.)

So I e-mailed. I am not that familiar with Craigslist. It always seems a bizarre combination of intimate and distant. On the one hand, we are all people, and these transactions involve a visit to one of our homes. On the other hand, we're talking about a used office chair here, the kind someone might leave by the curb (only very nice.) My note said "Hi. Is the chair still available? Thanks, Sam."

In a few minutes, I got: "Yes, it is." A few minutes after that, a follow-up: "Here's our number." I started having my doubts now, mostly because I didn't want to make that call. Believe it or not, I am extremely shy around strangers. I didn't want to talk to one on the phone, especially about furniture. But I got over myself.

She (Michelle) sounded pleasant but not overly-friendly. Which is totally fine. I asked if we could come by soon, and she said they were going out--but after 3:00 would work. I told her we were going out, too, and I'd bring their number.

We went to a Chinese Cultural Fair (Jarrah consumed her weight in sugar, kick-ass tai kwon do demonstration that involved exploding vegetables) and then to Carmax (David's clutch has given up the ghost) and then made David call them. While he was getting their address, I turned the car around and we fired up the GPS. Turned out we were only 2 miles away.

Their house was the cutest one on the block. Tiny, but with impeccable shrubbery, including some well-tended lavender. I liked these people already. "This is a be-YOO-ti-ful house," said Jarrah. We knocked.

Michelle opened the door. She was naturally glamorous, with lots of curly hair and teeny-tiny hips. She had wedged the office chair right into the doorway, which was slightly awkward, yet seemed appropriate for what we had come to do. However, Jarrah was already trying to squeeze past her ("Hey Mom, we're here now--I'm gonna go explore"), and suddenly, a sweet little voice came down the hall--"Is that my friend? Come in!" I peered around the doorway, and the most adorable little girl was coming to greet us. "Come to my room!" she shouted when she saw Jarrah.

Jarrah needed no second invitation. Her shoes were off (this was funny, since we have a 'no shoe' policy at our house, Jarrah is used to taking them off--but these folks had a "please remove your shoes" sign on their door!) and she scrammed to the back of the house before we could say a word. Now we had some awkward.

"Um, Jarrah?" I called. "We're not here to play. Just to get the chair." Both girls came back out. "Please?" said Isabelle (for that was her name.) "Just for a while?" Jarrah nodded eagerly. "Um, if it's okay with your mom," I said to Isabelle. We all laughed a little nervously, and David and I went out to put the chair in the car.

When we returned, Jarrah and Isabelle had a veritable city of My Little Pony in her lovely room, with what looked like castles and about a hundred figurines. They'd arranged them in a perfect ring around themselves, like they were pioneers circling the wagons. Turns out they are only a month apart in age.

There was something so natural about their play, like they'd known each other in another life. I was charmed by little Isabelle, so welcoming to her new friend, and also delighted that Jarrah was exactly the child to find nothing the least bit odd about busting down a stranger's door to go play ponies in the back room. The girls were temperamently suited to a T. They chattered to the ponies and each other like they'd done it yesterday, and had been doing it for years. It was really kinda beautiful.

And it made me feel this weird kinship with her parents. Michelle's husband, Michael, came out to say hello, and it felt like the most unnatural thing in the world to say to Jarrah, "I guess we better go now. The chair's in the car." The girls didn't fret, but Isabelle followed us out and called from the doorway, "Love you! See you at our next playdate!" which made me want to cry. I suddenly felt that the world is just too big, and that people are not allowed to meet strangers and become friends unless they have a really, really good reason. And knocking on one's door to buy a chair is just not enough. The gap is too wide to bridge. I left, but I did so reluctantly.

And then something just short of miraculous happened. We went on with our afternoon--brought the chair home, puttered around the house, made plans to go to dinner--and went back out. We parked by Costco because we thought we'd stop in there after we ate, and walked by the front door (noticing it was closing) as we headed to the restaurant. And coming out of Costco? Michael. Isabelle's dad.

We live in one of the biggest cities in the country. He recognized us first, and seemed struck as much or more than I was, seconds later. "Maybe...maybe we should have that playdate." he said. "Do you have my wife's number?" "Here," I said. "My card. We were obviously fated to meet." Everyone laughed. Jarrah was the only one who didn't find it the least bit odd. She probably figured she'll see him tomorrow, too, and she can tell him all about what she had for dinner, while she and Isabelle put those ponies in perfect formation.


Myrnie said...


Aunt LoLo said...'s fate!

Jen said...

What a lovely story! When something like that happens in sprawling San Diego, you know you need to let it run its course. I am looking forward to hearing more about Jarrah and Isabelle.

Miss J

erin said...

Wow, you have cosmic connections with baggers and super perfect suburbanites. Lucky girl.

Caroline said...

Magic! I see potential for both a Hallmark inspirational chick flick and a Stephen King horror movie contained in that story. :) Hope it at least ends in a beautiful friendship.

Blend said...

Awesome! Lucky girl huh..

Cheri @ Blog This Mom! said...

What a great story. I hope they call. Tell us!