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  • Flicker on, left turn. Quick to brake as I see an older woman around the bend. Her walking speed is exaggerated slower as I stare from a moving vehicle. Her thick-soled gym shoes, pad each of her steps. I smile slowly watching her lift her shoe up onto the sidewalk, and drive by. I park, slide out, stand and shut the door in one movement.

    She beats me inside, just by a moment, and is eyeing the box display. I let her pick it up. Due to my belief in lines, I wait as she continues to meditate on the cardboard structure. I allow myself to move ahead, towards the counter.

    'I am here to pickup a package.' With a smile and a quick step, the employee returns with a green foreign package. I begin to inspect it, and then the elderly woman, from the background, chimes in, "Is this big enough for 8 cans of Skyline chili?' Her inspection required backup since it was Afghanistan- bound to her grandson. The employee assured her, 'Yes, maam.'

    I follow the cued directions on the little screen in front of me, as I learned more about her grandson's service. The employee wishes me a happy birthday and I begin the retreat. While the older woman carries her box and white leather purse and follows with a headstart to the door. I am impatiently waiting to open this gift from Hong Kong, but wait and hold the door open for her. The grandmother continues to share. So I give it a try. Opening up, I admit that my sister in Hong Kong loves Skyline chili too. That wasn't too personal.

    She takes my family share and goes into her package planning lowdown. Keeping me in limbo, between the 2 doorways, with the visualization of 8 cans of Cincinnati's best chili, a box of spaghetti, and grated cheese.

    'What about the oyster crackers?' I was concerned he would not have the true hometown experience. 'I dont have any padding for them,' assuring me that she had thought out all details.

    I push open the second door for fresh air, and for a continuation of the present day ahead. She shuffles on the sidewalk a few steps. I wish her and her grandson the best with a smile and step down to the one-lane lot. Her descent is slower.
    'I have something for you,' she admits and dives fingers first into her purse. She pulls at a light purple ribbon, with a bead and paperclip dangling. I finally slow down to her pace, and take a step back.

    'Oh that is too sweet of you. What is it?'
    'Look closely,' she exhales, 'It's an angel.'
    'Thank you.'
    'And here is one for your sister.'

    With two ribbon paperclips in hand, I thank her once more again. And bounce toward my car in my wooden clogs. But her work is not done.

    'I am working on getting into heaven.'
    I don't even think. I turn and repsond, in the rhythm we built.
    'Aren't we all?'

    Our conversation fades into the pavement. I am ready to open my gift.
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