Have you ever had one of those moments that shifted the sense of time, so that you were somehow in your current world and also somehow decades away?
That happened to me yesterday. It was such an ordinary moment. I was at the carwash and the sun was oppressive. There was just one bench in the shade and two people already occupied it. But surely I could fit between them with my book and my purse and it would be fine for the next 15 minutes as we waited. I asked and they obliged, each edging to the outer sides of the bench and I maneuvered between them on that waffled metal bench.
I didn’t really look at either of them, but once I was seated the woman to my right spoke to her husband in their foreign language as he came to join us. The three of us moved over, making room for him as well. Their conversation in foreign nouns and verbs transported me to my childhood where I was somewhere, like Burger King, with Italian grandparents when I had no idea what they said to each other.
Her perfume and the thickness of her arm made me want to lean into her softness as tears welled behind my sunglasses. I ached for my grandmother and my childhood more three decades in my past. I wanted to lean into her. I wanted to talk to her and try to explain to her what I was feeling and I swear her husband said “lasagna” several times, even thought I’m certain they were speaking Russian or Czech and definitely not Italian. It was so real.
The man to my left got up to retrieve his car, and the older couple and I sat on that bench at the carwash while “Don’t Stop Believing” played softly from the speaker near the exit sign. I loved her thick old lady necklace and her near-white orthopedic open-toed sandals with the stockings. I loved her in that moment. She was my grandmother and I was four years old. I so wanted to hug her and for a moment be hugged by that woman. My own grandmother approaches 100 years. I haven't heard her speak Italian since my grandfather died more than 15 years ago, and I didn’t even recognize her last time I visited her. She was hunched in a wheelchair in the nursing home she now lives in. She was nothing like the grandmother who lives in my memories.
A few minutes later, the couple got up. As they walked away from me, more than thirty years were instantly added to my age and I was alone on the bench.