Even in grade school, Gloria knew how to work a room. I was both intimidated and envious that she made friends easily. She was a genuine farm girl, and had to bus every day from her farm in Findlater to our school in Lumsden.
I thought being chauffeured like this was a mark of wealth. After all, I had to walk four blocks.
Oh, how I wanted to take the bus. I wanted to see her farm, and the animals she talked about. My mom insisted on getting permission from Gloria’s mom, and Gloria kept forgetting to ask.
I came up with a brilliant plan. I wrote the note myself in forest-green felt pen with the cursive lettering we’d just learned, on my stationary of choice–newsprint. I thought it was fancy because it didn’t have any lines, though I do recall wishing I had managed to remove it from the pad without tearing the corner. Oh well.
I’d worked hard on the wording. The challenge I faced, however, was how to sufficiently extend an invitation in the delicate curlicues my mother used while avoiding any capital letters after H, because that’s all I’d learned so far. I’m sure it went something like this:
“Dear mrs. C,
How nice it would be if Crystal came to the farm this weekend. Gloria wants her to. she will have fun. sincerestly, mrs.E.”
Why yes, there may have been a made-up word or two, but it sounded grown-up, didn’t it? And for whatever reason, it did the trick. I lugged a few extra articles of clothing the four blocks to school and insisted that Gloria take me home with her.
She may have hesitated, I don’t remember. In the end I convinced her to take me home like the stray cat I was. She had a moment with her mother–I never learned what happened in THAT conversation. I was allowed to stay, I had the best weekend ever, and I got to take a real bag lunch to school on Monday.
I also got grounded for a week afterwards. It was totally worth it.
As elementary school made way for junior high, my family moved away and though we kept in touch sporadically, Gloria and I haven’t seen each other since we were sixth-graders.
Fast forward many decades. My aunt is in the hospital recovering from a significant surgery in Regina. I sent Gloria a note and asked if she would mind dropping off some flowers at the hospital. I wanted more of my budget to go to the gift and less to go to administrative fees. “Don’t worry, C.T.” she said. “I’m on it.”
What I didn’t expect was that she would drop in at the hospital and hang out with my aunt and my cousin–women she’d never met. I didn’t expect that she’d “want to get a feel for who Auntie Bev is,” or that she’d spend that time asking about her family and her friends, talking about farms and her small town, and well, telling her side of the newsprint story.
Gloria is a storyteller. She does it every day as a radio DJ, and she does it well. I’m sure she embellished. I know it. I’m quite certain I was far more innocent than she must have made me seem.
The flowers never did work out because of ICU rules. Before her surgery though, my aunt said, “Your friend made me laugh. She’s quite something.”
When I spoke with my cousin, she said, “Your friend is awesome.”
What an incredible gift, not just for my aunt and my cousin but for me too. I couldn’t be there, nor could my mother, but Gloria filled in for us and spent time making brave but frightened women laugh. That’s all they wanted–to laugh in the face of difficult times. And all it took was a little one-on-one time.
Such kindness is indelible as green-felt ink on newsprint. What Gloria did wasn’t difficult. How she did it was incredible, and I’ll never forget it.
In fact, I think I’ll go and find some way to pay it forward. Uncommon kindnesses can change the world.