I’ve worked in retail, in the same place, for over twenty years.
This longevity in a place of work is now an unusual thing and over time I’ve built up a relationship of sorts, with many of the customers.
It’s telling of the years that pass, as I watch children morph to adults, then bring in their own children.
I’ve seen older couples enter the shop together, later come in on their own, and eventually that older person will come in more slowly, helped by their children, and then you never see them again.
I’ve learned not to ask after people after tearfully being told, way too often, that a wife or husband were no longer alive. The worst time being when I asked a couple about their daughter who loved and collected a certain brand of toy that we stocked, and found out that the little girl had recently died.
One particular full cycle I remember clearly, although the people concerned were irregular visitors to my work space.
In early 2000, when England was still going through the ‘boom’ years we would get a lot of drunken office workers in after their Christmas work functions. One particular couple had obviously just started a relationship and staggered into the shop together. She tried on diamanté belts which were then the trend, and they both were talking about how much weight she had recently lost.
Perhaps I remembered her because she had the most incredible dark red hair, perhaps because they were so much in love, but the memory held although I didn’t see them again for many years.
When they came back in together it must have been seven or eight years later, and they now had two small children. He was thin, and a dreadful cadaver like colour. He looked as if he had some type of throat cancer as he had a silicone surgical dressing on his neck, and was unable to speak.
He was obviously dying but the woman was animated and energetic, and the children frolicked around the sparkle filled shop looking at Christmas trinkets and titbits.
Some years later she again came into the shop, her children older and more subdued. She was thinner and more worn, but still pulsing with that strong life filled energy.
What has triggered these thoughts? Maybe the build up to yet another Christmas, when I’ll see customers I only see yearly, and will superficially chat with them as I register the way time passes and gives and takes, so much.