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people watching

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the outside in

I sat in a booth at our local Farmer’s Market all day Saturday as part of the gardening program I run at my work. I try and entice teens to care about growing organic fruits and vegetables, and I bribe reward them for their efforts with either money, school credits or a few of the 100 volunteer hours they need to be able to graduate.

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Typically I’d be sitting at the booth with one of the kids, who would have joined me the night before to harvest veggies for the market, but we’ve had a shit growing season so far, and thus, no veggies, no teens, just me.

Let me get intimate with y’all, lets hold hands and talk about the ENERGY of the Farmer’s Market. Let’s talk about the VIBE. Mm’kay? But seriously the energy IS amazing! And there IS a vibe and it is totally, distinctly positive and friendly and warm.

Observe my metamorphosis: I arrive in the morning sullen and surly, speaking monosyllabic sentences. I am bitter that I’m spending a whole Saturday sitting at the market, I’m angry that I have to haul all the shit from my car to the booth and set it up by myself and navigate around dogs and children (both on leashes) to do so, and I (staunch tea drinker) want to mainline a strong cafe mocha IMMEDIATELY.

Cut to five hours later and I’m smiling so hard my cheeks might split, laughing and getting to know folks on a first name basis, calling people “folks” and I swear I’m one “buying local produce is like hugging a farmer” conversation away from knee-slapping and saying golly! It just transforms me, I love being there and I can’t believe that it’s part of my job.

As I sat in hour 2 of 5 -a key period in the metamorphosis where my people watching turns from vindictive critiques of fashion and parenting styles to a Free to Be You and Me type communion with humanity- I saw a couple approach with their two children.

I wish I had a picture of them and could post it in a way that wasn’t creepy because I can’t even begin to describe them. I love love LOVE them and have met them literally two or three times in passing but their attitudes are just sublime. The mom is Australian and has short-cropped hair but in a very funky rock-style way, totally unaffected and unpretentious. The dad looks like a faded surfer dude, but still fit and attractive. Their two children are blonde and precocious and the eldest is a girl about 4 who has one of those short-shorn haircuts with the long curling tendrils around the ears and the nape of the neck…again, if only a photo.

I strike up a conversation with the dad while his wife admires the handmade leather journals being sold in the booth beside me, and overcome by my metamorphosis I confide to him that I adore, no ADORE, their parenting style and how they are raising their kids. I tell him he’s doing an amazing job and I want to be them in like 5 years. I almost keep talking but am starting to feel like this is a little weird, when he leans in close and he’s like “Man, it’s hard.”  And I start to smile because of how timely this conversation is and he continues “It took me so long to adjust to being a parent, to not feeling like I had to fight to see who was going to come first and it took me even longer to realize that there was no contest, it has to be them.”

I pause, and am struck by his candour and am slowly digesting these words as he goes on,  ”the one thing  I was never prepared for was how much and how fiercely I would love them.” He looks over at his daughter as she taunts her little brother with sips of her snow cone , “Totally unprepared.”

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We chatted for a few more minutes as his wife returned and they called their kids and they walked away.

In hour 4, a woman came towards the table eying the basket of homemade biscuits that we were selling as a fundraiser. Little peanut butter dog cookies stamped into bones, hearts and stars, two for a dollar. As she neared the table she made eye contact and said ”I lost my dog three days ago.” and her eyes immediately welled up with tears. She said ” I really miss her” and before I could stammer a reply, some form of condolence or commiseration or comfort, she left and merged into the crowd.

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I am constantly struck by how much people will tell you, how much they (we) need to share, to vent and compare notes. Ours is not a solitary experience and it makes me feel a little less weird for keeping this blog.