I remember thinking she was really thin. Pale too. Sickly? There was something else too. And then the cashier asked her for like, $36.74, and when she kindly joked that she wanted to pay with spare change, I suddenly realized who she was: my Mom.
Well, not really my Mom because my mother died last year. Yet this woman was the right age and the right build and the right look. Plus she wore a hat, definitely function over fashion, just like my Mom did. And she wasn’t joking. Despite the four other people in line, she was determined to use all her coins. And so she counted them out: toonies, loonies, quarters, dimes, nickels. Just like my Mom would do sometimes. And it was kind of funny. And also annoying. Especially when she realized she didn’t have enough change so she inquired if she could pay the difference with her debit card. Distracted by this little spectacle, this little gift of something like a memory that seemed to be somehow entirely made for me, my impatience faded and I smiled and positioned myself fully in the moment. I suspect everyone else in that cashier’s line seethed but I was tickled to see her again if only in the form of a stranger.
I know how memory works. Science says this experience is the type of memory triggered by recognition. In other words, something familiar unconsciously triggers recall and when this happens we live in the then and the now, sort of straddling two worlds, a sort of re-imagination rather than a remembering.