La Vida Local
Irregular Notes on West End Life
By Rosanne Graef
Especially at this time of year, but also when birthdays, graduations, weddings, retirements, and other celebrations put us into gift-giving mode, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s really an appropriate and meaningful gift. One hat will perhaps be remembered and treasured throughout the recipient’s life.
It’s a tall order, not easily achieved in today’s over-scheduled, consumer-goods-saturated atmosphere. I hope the following may give you some inspiration and help you score a goal to be recorded in the annals of memorable gift-giving!
CULTIVATE A STRANGER
Many of you know that I grew up in the small town of Wayne, made famous by the bumper sticker: “Where the Hell Is Wayne, Maine?” When I was a kid, the town’s population hit its nadir of 452.
The Wayne General Store in the center of town served as the locus of just about all news worth knowing, aside from that generated in the moment at the annual March town meeting held at the Wayne Town Hall. (Aside: these two fine institutions still stand and are worth a visit if you can figure out the answer to the bumper sticker.)
One November the proprietor of the Wayne General decided to hold a Thanksgiving raffle for a turkey. Tickets were 25¢ and on the Tuesday morning of the drawing about half the town was in attendance with bated breath. For some reason I was not in school but was at the store with my mother.
Being the youngest in the crowd (I think I was 5), I was selected to pull the winning number from a paper bag. I dramatically fished around and extracted a folded half slip of paper and handed it to the store owner. He called out, “Number Eleven! Is Number Eleven here among us?”
A man in his 70s dug the other half of the slip out of his pocket and quietly stepped forward to receive his prize. He graciously thanked me for drawing his number and for years afterward whenever I would see him, he would smile and wave and call out, “How are you, Number Eleven?”
It always made me happy to be recognized by him and to feel that we shared a special moment that neither one of us would ever forget.
When my mother died, one of my cousins spoke at her funeral. He said that what he appreciated most about his aunt was that when he talked with her he always felt that she was really listening and would ask questions to elicit his opinions on what they were discussing, even fine art, which he mentioned was something that she introduced him to when he was a child.
DON’T BE ORDINARY
A good friend of mine moved to Florida and we didn’t get to see each other for almost 20 years. When I finally had the chance to visit, I asked her what I could bring her from Maine. Her answer was, “Bring me something I can’t get here!”
What could be better, then, than an Amato’s Italian sandwich? Just make sure to get the tomatoes on the side and you’ve got the perfect present for bringing back fond memories of good times and have created a story to share in the future.
Rosanne Graef is a West End resident. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.