Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Elizabeth's Coffee

Elizabeth. I know very little about her personally. I know she likes to collect what some might consider junk and make it into something beautiful. I know she has a grandchild that lives many states away.

I would guess she's in her late fifties or early sixties, but her sparkly blue eyes could convince you that she's no more than sixteen. She's one of those people that you know has seen a lot of life. She has long thick blond hair that is always held together in a parade of ponytails. She has a a scar above her lip and walks with a slight limp. I found the latter out after several months of knowing her.

Elizabeth works behind the Cafe on the Go check-out counter at HEB. I visit two to three times each week. Now, I love the salad bar at HEB and a Sweet Leaf Tea on the go. But, honest? I go to see Elizabeth.

She knows about the odds and ends of my life. Anything beyond my routine salad and Sweet Leaf purchase and Elizabeth will get to the bottom of it. She often knows what we'll be having for dinner that night, if one of us is sick, when it's my grandmother's birthday and even when I'm having a chocolate craving. I suppose you can learn a lot about a person by what they pick up at the grocery store. It's odd to think about someone knowing so many little things about you and not even knowing their last name.

But it's Elizabeth, so it's okay.

We usually talk about the upcoming weather, how it's tough that it's a Monday or how great that we've almost made it to the weekend. When the big stuff happens in life I want to tell her. But then I remember that she doesn't know any of the big stuff.

It was mid-morning and I wasn't in work clothes. I came to her counter with a strawberry ricotta muffin and poured a cup of coffee. When it came to be my turn to check-out, Elizabeth sized me up with my out-of-routine time and out-of-the-ordinary muffin and coffee. She rang it up and smiled quietly saying "That will be a $1.50 for the muffin." I asked, "Did you add the coffee?" "Nope, you've never had coffee before." She said this with her blue eyes twinkling that told me to just go with it and she began to check-out the next person in line.

Elizabeth knew this day was very different. It was more than Muffin-and-Coffee-Out-of-the-Ordinary and probably one of the saddest and toughest days of my life up to this point. Somehow free coffee from Elizabeth made it better.

Maybe it was random kindness or maybe she saw something in my eye that was different too.  Maybe free coffee was the Band-Aid that Elizabeth had to give.

I don't need to tell Elizabeth the big stuff. Somehow she just knows.

I did learn something else about my friend that day. The line at the cafe that morning was quite long. No one went around the corner to the twenty available check-out lines.
I'm not the only that comes to see Elizabeth.

Or maybe they're just there for the coffee. What do you think?