A couple weeks ago, (when I started to feel okay about being back from India... took me a minute) we went to Ikea to find my cousin a futon/bed situation for his studio. Ikea is the only thing that can come close to steering me towards the idea of 'settling down' someday.... but it escapes when we walk out the door, bagless and broke, licking a swirly frozen custard cone. But anyway, (see, I'm already out the door) after we picked out a beddinge frame, located the components and lugged our cart to the check-out, I was convincing him to get a bamboo plant for himself, as it will add a touch of serenity to his place. (Btw, Beddinge means bed in Swedish. Just don't look it up.) He wasn't having it... so I said alright, I'll get you one myself and off I went in search of the perfect bamboo.
Little did I know, I'd find something so much more. (Does this make you want to read on? Just asking cause I'm trying that "building up suspense" thing with my writing.)
So I walk over to the bamboos and overhear a woman asking out loud, "how do you even pick the perfect one?" I'm still not sure who she asked or if she just kind of asked the universe, but I chimed in anyway.
"I know how!" I said and tilted my head towards the mysterious voice to find a face. She was an adorable middle-aged lady with a pixie cut. And so it began....
I told her how I have a curly bamboo myself and how I like to pick them. The spiral ones, also magically named 'Lucky bamboo, have lots of personality and thrive on virtually no maintenance. So she too decided on a spiral plant. But three seconds into scanning the bunch, she turned to me and excitedly said, "You pick it!"
Crap, I thought. SO much pressure. I didn't doubt my bamboo selecting ability, but for some reason I really wanted this woman to be pleased with whatever she walked away with. Like it was my life mission that day to make sure Mary finds the perfect bamboo.
After picking up and examining (again, under a TON of pressure mind you) at least seven plants, I finally decided. I made sure the leaves were long and full enough and didn't have a trace of yellow. She asked me why this one... and I winged an answer about the size and curvature of the stalk.
I then told her about my theory that bamboo plants thrive off of your energy, but also give off their own. Feng Shui principles actually claim that bamboo attracts happy and good chi energy and since the plant is strong, it can energize your space and soul. Not sure what's true or not, but Mary and I believe there's no harm in seeking positivity. We talked about this for a few minutes until she had the sudden urge to ask me what I do. And I didn't mind, I wanted to tell her. And in return I learned that her mother and father were political journalists in Washington, D.C. in the sixties. In fact, her mother was an actual IRL example of someone who fought for workplace equality during the feminist movement of 1960.
I geeked out, oh man.
Near the end of our chit chat, she knew something most people do not. My actual dream job, buried beneath many other dream jobs... that are really just easy answers for that very question. She told me how people these days are so "over" everything and it was refreshing to meet someone who wasn't. And inside, I went DUDE ME TOO.
My cousin was at the check-out so I had to hurry back with his bamboo, but I was so sad to cut our conversation short. I didn't know how to tell Mary I loved talking to her, because that reaction when you meet someone new is so generic now. Almost like it's a default reflex, even if you hated talking to that person. But... she said it first after adding in a bit that melted my heart to sipping chocolate. "Now every time I look at my bamboo, I'll think of you." Aaaaaaaaaaaaagh.
And then asked if she could hug me and you can guess how that ended.
I also said I live for these encounters... so random, so unplanned and accidental, but so fulfilling. And she said something about the universe that confirmed she is in fact, my kindred spirit.
I skipped back to my cousin and brother and told them every little detail over and over. On the way out, in the car, over lunch, all the way back home.
I couldn't get over it. A middle-aged woman in Ikea, a complete stranger... someone I felt connected to. It's so odd... so freakishly odd.
Of course, I do so hope to meet her again someday. I know she feels the same because she turned back around after I said bye to say just that.
One last also, I hope her bamboo grows forever and ever.