As I sat down to write this entry, I realized that this will be the 18th topic Ginny and I have tackled together. This wasn’t a random thought or just one of those, “Wow, so it is” kind of things which coincidentally happened while I was thinking about shopping. Strange as it may sound, considering the concept of shopping, more than any other topic, I found myself thinking of all the reasons I love writing with Ginny, all the things we have learned about each other and about ourselves as we have struggled and discussed our way through weeks and months of topics.
One of the things we have talked about at semi-great length is the huge difference in our childhoods and the lives we have gone on to live, both of which, from the outside, are about as different as two women’s lives can be. It is very possible that if our paths crossed for the first time today, we would simply say, “Hi, it’s nice to meet you,” and never think about each other again. The interesting part of that, however, is that if we hadn’t crossed paths when we did, both of our lives might have gone very differently, or if you believe that some things or some parts of all lives are predestined, we would have, at the very least, taken very different paths to get to where we are today. Anyway, that’s a whole different topic. Well, sort of. The point is that if you are lucky and meet someone at a point in time were you get right to the heart of things in a hurry, relationships that would seem to be the most improbable can become lifelong gifts.
The point is that we are very different in some ways, and the point is that shopping is the best way to explain that.
(Prior to holiday shopping very long ago)
“Okay, you know what you are getting, right?”
“Yeah, well, I have ideas.”
“No, Julie, we’re not going to wander around looking.”
“I have to get something for everyone and and I think I know everything I”m getting but maybe not on one or two things but some of the things are heavy and then I will be dragging stuff around so maybe I won’t get everything or maybe I will see something just as good or better that isn’t as heavy and change my mind.”
I am a pre-shopper. I spend a lot of time looking but not buying so what I plan to do when I “go shopping,” is something some people call “annoying.” I have to really think something is perfect for someone to buy it on the spot. I generally buy one present per trip and that involves, yes, a lot of what some others may consider “wandering.” That particular holiday season Ginny and I were getting ready for there also the consideration that identifying “possibilities” was one thing, making enough money to make them “realities” was not a guaranty, which added to the need for even more “possibilities.” But all the shifts that could be worked had been worked and it was really close to last minute; aside from even more last minute pick up a little something extra things, it was time to get the real shopping done, as in, it was time to actually make purchases.
“We planned this, you knew we were going to go today. I thought you said you saw all the stuff you wanted and were just waiting until today to get.”
“I know, I’ll figure it out when we get there, it’ll be fine.”
“No, make a list. We are going right to each thing, getting it all and coming home.”
“But Ginny, some of the things are really heavy, maybe I should look and decide and then we can go back one more time.”
“Make a list, Julie. Put the heavy things last so you don’t have to carry them around the whole time, just get them when we are almost done and about to leave and you just have to carry them home.”
Although nothing happened that would be on the news that night, no spotlights came on and no band started playing, at that moment, with those words, Ginny became a something close to “hero.” Really. I knew she make lists and actually took them with her and actually checked them while she was shopping and before checking out and before going home, which was all really impressive. But this idea, this amount of organization and list pre-planning, this was something in a whole different category. I rarely benefited from it in shopping sense, making good lists is something that completely eluded me all of my life, but over the years, the very fact someone I knew thought that way, was that organized in their thoughts, influenced me in so many ways.
It wasn’t a metaphor for life or anything like that. This idea was being organized, not wandering. For many years of my childhood, I never gave it a thought. But as I got older and things rearranged some, this kind of thinking was what people did at work or about projects. When you got home, or when it was about the things that were just yours, that was when you really thought, when you were creative and not just going through the motions because you have to make money to pay your way. This was the kind of thinking you were so happy not to have to do when you got home. I had always been in a “learning zone” as I tried to get everything done in some orderly way for my son. The idea that this was not only possible, but might actually not be harmful and could actually belong in daily life, that idea was astounding. Was this the difference is the way things worked? What would my mother’s home have been like if we had ever achieved anything even remotely close to this kind of thought in that space? And what would weekends have felt like if my father had shrugged off the endless wandering style of thinking he learned at Yeshiva? No question about it, this was surely something important.
Ginny just kind of shakes her head when I remind her of this, it’s not something most people would have thought twice about. I’m sure that if she has suggested it to anyone else who liked and added that step to their list making or shopping planning, it would have been just a good idea. And if, roughly 25 years later after she mentioned it, that person suggested it to someone this week and that person said, “Wow, I don’t know why I never thought of that, it makes such good sense,” there might have been a moment when Ginny was remembered, but probably not. I have come to understand that, for a lot of the world, making lists and planning for shopping trips are not as amazing a as I once thought they were.
Ginny and I have had many wandering conversations, she does wander sometimes. But not on everything, and not endlessly, those are big parts of the difference. I think it’s sometimes not the wandering that tangles me up, but knowing when to stop, understanding that it all really doesn’t have to be endless; I have learned to let things go for the moment and even years, but the idea that anything ever really can be just gone, that part of it still eludes me sometimes. Which is when I call or write to my friend Ginny who usually doesn’t say much, she lets me go on and on but unlike some of my friends who are also ramblers, she will only tolerate it for so long and at that point will simply ask, “So what are you going to do?” If that fails, if I respond with a list of things that is shorter but not more narrow and not any more likely to lead to a conclusion than that the mountain of crap I started with, she will wait and when I finally unravel it all and stop trying to consider every damn thing, she will point that out. And she is usually right. I start with how I really feel and then I dissect it to see if there are any arguments or other things I need to know or should consider, pro and con, back and forth. I get lost and I get tired and I get frustrated and I get to what it is I really feel which is almost always where I started. I still am trying to make the right lists, to keep it simple.
While I have come to understand that maybe Ginny’s list-making idea was not something many people would consider worthy of the “hero” label, it doesn’t make her less of one to me. She and I have shopped through life, trying lots of things on and buying a few. We have both wandered in our own ways. We have wandered along on our own paths and sometimes had no idea where the other was, but we always seem to cross paths again at just the right time. We have often talked about the many like experiences we share, how similar some of what shaped some really deep parts of us was, and how differently our lives have gone along. It occurred to me as I was writing this that while it is true that we are so different, while it is true that even the way we think, our actual thought processes, on some things at least, are very different, we met at a time when all of that mattered very little.
I read something the other day about how most of what we do is really a form of shopping. People have lists of things they want from a job, from a partner, from a pet, from a car, from a friend, a home, from everything. They decide ahead of time what they are looking for and go around “shopping.” Up until the moment we were, Ginny and I were not probable friends, we were probably not quite who the other would have had on their list. Which is sort of interesting and just goes to show that sometimes, if you take a chance, if you don’t always have a list, or if don’t always stick to it and let some things slide, if you just kind of wander and look here and there, you may stumble across some of the best gifts in life. Of course, that’s nice and sounds real good, but the truth is, day to day, it is really good to know how to make a list and remember to take it with you, and then check it while you are shopping, especially if you happen to live with a cat.