The week before I left for vacation, I skipped out on marathon training. I know. I know. In my defense, it was hot and I did not feel like running. So I didn’t.
Instead of sweating while running, I found myself sweating while knitting on a bench next to the fountain in my apartment complex. I live in a largish apartment complex over on the East Side of town (hardly posh even though it tries to be). Anyhow, there I was knitting and thinking about my next adventure, when this older woman with a grocery cart strolled over, sat next to me and then said, “where do you get your yarn?”
From that one question followed an hour-long conversation with the most amazing 91-year-old woman I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting! I never got her name, but she did manage to get my business card for S2 Stationery and Design and she shared stories with me about her own crocheting/knitting business when she was “younger.” She told me about making crocheted dresses for little girls that she would sell to shops in the LES. She also told me about the yarn stores she used to frequent in the neighborhood. I learned that she had been living in her apartment since 1964. Talk about long-term! Needless to say, our conversation was fun and quite enlightening.
Her crafting business story reminded me of a speaker I had the pleasure of hearing earlier this year, who talked about finding magazines from the 40s and 50s that contained articles for stay-at-home women who were crafting to make extra money. It made me realize that what I am doing is something that women have been doing for generations. This 91-year-old woman who sat next to me on the bench is a great example of that.
She asked me what I did for a living and I told her about S2 Stationery and Design and she asked for a business card. She also wanted to know what kind of cards and invitations I make. I shared as much as I could about my business when she asked me, “what does mom think?” I told her that my mom is incredibly supportive of my endeavor and she smiled and said, “moms know best, you know.”
As we talked, I kept knitting and so she asked me what and for whom I was knitting. I told her a really good friend of mine and she immediately assumed that it was a female friend because I was using a purple yarn. I corrected her and told her it was in fact for a good male friend of mine who I thought would look dashing in purple. She began to ask me how I had met this friend and I explained that we had met while on a trip to Prague in the Czech Republic in 2007.
At the time, I had no idea where she was going with the 20 questions, but when she got around to asking what my mother thought about said friend, I immediately clucked my tongue and laughed and told her quickly that my mother had not met him. This was when she made the first of her two incredible statements, “What do you mean your mother doesn’t know about the fella you’re going steady with?”
I was immediately filled with giggles, but that is when she got serious. She started off with telling me that she could tell I was acting like I didn’t care, but every girl wants stability and that I’m not getting younger. She also went on to tell me that her son is a bachelor at the age of 67 and that some people just aren’t made for marriage, but that I should consider this friend of mine. The conversation was brief on my marriage future as we continued to talk, but we talked about ailing parents, my father’s passing, the way the young women and men who live in our complex behave and about her being a cancer and heart surgery survivor as well as her losing her husband several years ago. She told me that I am a rare individual-one with an old soul.
I don’t believe I talked very much during the entire hour; she was interested in everything I said and kind in her listening, but she was also rapid in firing off her opinions and telling her story. I could tell her need to talk to someone who wasn’t her caretaker or an older person. Moments like this (I don’t converse with many old people in my day-to-day) remind me of how much I don’t interact with older generations and how important it is to talk and be part of their stories just as much as it is for them to be part of my story. It also made me think about my only remaining grandparent’s current aging process and the fragility of his history- 0f all of our histories for that matter- and it made me want to know more.
After about an hour, she stood up abruptly and explained she had to get home, but as she walked away she stopped and made her second incredible statement, “Good luck. You’re going to be great, I know you are. About that fella, give him a think, okay?”. With that she grabbed her cart and walked away. I haven’t seen her since and part of me wonders if it really happened (it did-she is as real as I am), but when I got home, I told my roommate immediately because I had to share the randomness and the awesomeness of the hour.
I have now shared this story in both verbal and written language with many friends and family members and everyone has had the same comment, “Only you, Sara, would have an experience like that.” I’ve been told that I’m not the friendliest person, but maybe knitting makes me seem more approachable? I’m not sure. What I do know is that I enjoyed that moment – as a pal of mine said, “you had quite a New York moment” and I agree, I did.
I’m not sure that sharing this story with you readers has anything to do with business or stationery, but it does have something to do with the power of words and the connections created by sharing our stories. There is an incredible fullness that comes to the mind and soul when people engage in real communication.
I will never forget that woman, who in my mind, I call Iris. I may never meet her again, but I know that I will never forget her support and encouragement that night, or more importantly, that at 91 she has bravery and spunk that lots of young people could stand to learn.
As I wrapped up my knitting that night, I felt lucky for that experience. I still do now, three weeks later.