Writing101 – Day Six Prompt

The challenge is to write about the most interesting person (or people) I’ve met in 2014; the twist is to do a character study.

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On our main boulevard we have two main businesses – thrift stores and massage parlors.  I guess one could go back and forth between them, finding bargains in both.

This isn’t about massage parlors, although that could be interesting.

Instead, it’s about The House of Yahweh, one of the smaller thrifts on the boulevard – we have Salvation Army and Goodwill and then we have Yahweh and at least one other small one named Luther’s Attic.  Since this is Southern California, most houses don’t have attics, so I’m not sure who Luther is, but if he lives around here, it’s pretty much assured he doesn’t have an attic.

As far as I can determine, Yahweh’s proceeds, after expenses, all go for a local nun’s charity which is the standard helping kids and teens and their families in the community sort of thing.

My mom would walk down the street towards a burger joint she liked, and on this side of the street, she’d pass Yahweh on a daily basis; often she’d dip in and look for a bargain on a tchoke she had to have.  When she’s manic, there’s always another tchoke that she has to have.  Finally she asked about a job so that’s how she became their first official “greeter.”  Just like Walmart.

Mona, the manager, tried to teach her the fancy computerized cash register, but she hated it and when she hates something, my mom is unable to learn it.  But as the greeter thing was getting old, and the cash register eluded her, she had to figure out something else she’d be allowed to do, since all of the other functions were covered.

So Mom figured out that the bathroom could use her gentle ministrations and she began to show up weekly, comet, windex, rubber gloves and scrub brushes in hand.    She’d spic and span that john within an inch of its life.

Besides my mom, each of the other volunteers has a story, of course.  Diana is a lady who lunches who grew older and when her husband retired, she just started volunteering more hours.  She’s that lady who never has had to work, but enjoys “helping out in the community.”  Hair in place in a gray bob, immaculate nails and make-up even when she’s sitting on the floor, sorting through plus-size blouses and t-shirts, she’s a Junior Leaguer through and through.

Then there’s Marian, a retired teacher.  She just hates being around her husband all day.  He’s been depressed more lately, a condition that was passed along to their son, who still lives with them at 39.  There’s a sense of quiet desperation with Marian no matter how much therapy she’s had to cope with her depressed family.  So for her, Yahweh and it’s normal stuff like “how much should we price the DVD’s?” is a relief.

Johnny is a young designer and photographer who, when he was a teen, was helped by the good sister.  Headed down a bad path in high school, he was on the verge of dropping out when his mother met Sister Frances and she “put him to work” at another store.  She had him doing window displays and he did them with only the energy that a teenager can bring.  Before that, an ex-nun and schoolteacher named Jean had done them (hers looked like the displays in every elementary school room across America).  He’s now in college studying but still comes in once a month to do something funky, fun and fresh as he might say.

And then there’s Mona.  She’s not just a helper in the community or a lost teen who grew up.  She’s a retired manager who was recently widowed and was looking for something, anything, to manage again.  Mona had learned the art of managing people and resources in her career path through corporate America, a long way from the tumbleweeds and fields of West Texas.  As a black woman in her mid-60’s, she knew life would be hard, but after leaving Texas, nothing was ever that hard again.  In fact, most of her life after that beginning has been fairly easy, no matter how difficult.  The hard stuff of getting older, the aches and pains, and losing her husband – well, it wasn’t literally picking cotton as a kid during the blaze of a Texas summer.

“It’s the best in the West,” she told me, and she meant it.

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