Everyone is a critic. Step out your front door in a tutu and you’ll find yourself plagued with sideways glances. A few people may indeed cross the street out of fear. It’s a tutu. It signifies nothing. However, because it looks unconventional, it is deemed inappropriate, scary.
Yesterday, as I walked out my back door, stood an older woman. She wore a pink velour track suit, with a tutu. Her hair dishevelled, atop her head a ball hat pushing down her curly grey hair. I watched as she pushed her shopping cart, one wheel wobbling to the left and another about to fall off. I stared for a second caught up in the lines on her face. Her age traced in every wrinkle, a life that I assumed had been hard. I found myself lost in her eyes when they connected with mine. Her big brown eyes twinkled as a smile enveloped her face.
I have seen her before; she spends every Thursday night in the back alley behind my house collecting cans. Friday is garbage day in my neighbourhood. So in true suburban form, my entire block sets out to rid their homes of recycling, trash and what not.
Yesterday was the first day, the two of us had ever made eye contact. Typically I see her pass by my view from the kitchen window as I prepare dinner for my family. It is only at that moment I think of her. That is until her frail body moves out of sight.
As our eyes locked, and she beamed an infectious smile, I noticed that one pesky wheel on the cart was beginning to fall off. I felt as though we had stood looking at each other for a lifetime, that I could see her life flash before my eyes. As the moment began to pass, as she turned back to her cart to push on to the next house, the cart tipped and fell on its side. The crash of cans hitting the pavement, echoed off the houses. The cans rolled in every direction as her tiny arms struggled to avert disaster.
Without a thought, I ran to her side, dropping the bag of garbage I’d been clutching the entire time. As I knelt beside her, she looked up, directly into my eyes and simply stated, “Hi.”
“Hi, you okay?” was what I mustered.
“Yes, Dear. Are you?” she spoke as if she only carried wisdom as if she was from out of this world.
My mind was filled with thoughts (thoughts I am embarrassed to have had), of course, I am okay, I am not wearing the tutu and picking through people’s recycling. I can’t explain it, but it was as if she’d read my mind, or heard my thoughts. And then it happened, she simply sat on the pavement, touched my hand and said, “Does my tutu bother you?” I didn’t answer.
Maybe she had seen my face or watched my eyes as they expressed judgement towards her, or maybe she was indeed from out of this world.
We spent fifteen minutes picking up each and every one of her cans. And in that time, I learned a thing or two about humanity. Her scratchy voice and, considerate eyes looked into my heart as she went on to tell me a bit about who she was.
I learned she was a retired lawyer and had spent her life working with addicts who couldn’t afford legal fees. I discovered she lived in a house merely a few blocks from me, in an affluent part of town. Moreover with every word she spoke it felt as if she was holding me in her arms. Words have never wrapped themselves around me so tightly. I barely spoke as she let knowledge leak off her tongue. My eyes following her wrinkled lips as she gave me pieces of her life.
The cans and the cart, she collected them for a recovery house.
She spoke a set of words; which will resonate with me for the rest of my life, at least I hope so.
“In my life, I have learned there are no mistakes, only choices. But I will always stand behind, the mistake makers, the messy hearts, and the dreamers. These are my people. You are my people.”
Those words washed shivers down my spine; she reached inside me and touched my soul. I think I met an angel, yesterday.
As we came to pick up the last few cans, and I affixed the wheel back on her cart. She reached up, placed her hand on my shoulder then softly twirled her tiny body, “As for the tutu, I think it’s pretty. My granddaughter gave it to me.”
The unknown is scary, even to me. Following the crowd an easier option. Put on your Grey suit and fit in, walk with the masses.
I met the woman with a big scary tutu yesterday, and she taught me a thing or two about judgment. But what I really learned, was it’s okay to be who I want to be. That I will make mistakes, and I can be a dreamer. That my outward appearance will not make me who I am. I am going to be okay being just a bit different from the rest.
Also, I think I am about to buy a tutu.