She provides verbal benchmarking on the progression of my physical shape.

“Ahh … You’ve rolled off a couple of pounds.”

I turn my head and greet her with a smile and “Ah! Thank you for noticing!”

Her wrinkled dark face spread into a warm smile.

With the same ratty straw hat perched on her head, she lounges in the same tired low chair next to a clothes line taunt between two palm trees. Pinned on the line are characterless Antigua t-shirts and colorful beach wraps (made anywhere but Antigua). Displayed in organized rows on a plastic table below the line, are shell necklaces and stone bracelets of unknown origin. That sandy spot of Dickenson Bay Beach outside Coconut Grove restaurant is her turf.  And I think it’s been since Columbus first pointed to the island.

On my second trip to Antigua in early 2006, she wooed me with her coo of “Come and see, darling” and grandmother-like authority, so I sauntered over to her table and line of wares. And since that first and only purchase of a bracelet almost three years ago, I can set the moon and stars on her consistent and unsolicited appraisals on my appearance every time I pass by.

“I see you’ve put on some roundness.”

“You need some colour.”

“You look pretty today.”

“Mmmm … you’ve still got that backside.”

Some people may think it rude. I think it’s sweet.  If she didn’t care, she wouldn’t say anything. Sure her comments aren’t always flattering but they are honest expression of her opinion. Why does she care? It’s not the money I spend with her (for that figure is very low, though my parents bought t-shirts for their large brood of grandkids from her), it’s the investment of mental energy and acknowledgment. People want to be remembered … to feel like we have a mark in someone else’s life.

I appreciate her noticing me and the differences since my previous appearance.

And I appreciate that fact that I no longer need a bathroom scale.  After all … I’ve got a live person providing verbal benchmarking on the progression of my physical shape.

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