Travel was a big part of my job as an office trainer. As I maneuvered down the aisle of the crowded airplane, my mind drifted to other trips I’d taken: New York, Washington, overseas…
It was in Holland—at a tulip festival—that my husband, Craig, proposed. Even now, 12 years after his death, tulips always made me think of him.
I reached my row, where a middle-aged lady was already seated on the aisle. “I’ve got the window,” I said. She moved aside to let me climb in, apologizing for her bag. “No problem,” I said.
I hope she’s not chatty, I thought as I pushed my own bag under the seat in front of me. The one thing I hated while traveling was a seatmate who talked too much. Our flight from Boise to Portland was only an hour, and I planned to spend most of it sleeping. “Are you heading home today?” the woman asked.
“No,” I said. “I live in Boise, but I’m flying on business.”
“I’m on my way back to Alaska,” she said. “I just attended my high school reunion. Forty years. I can hardly believe it!”
That made me think of my own anniversary. It was still months away, but this year would have been our twentieth. A milestone. I tried to distract myself from feeling sad by listening to my seatmate. She was going on and on about her reunion.
“The city’s changed a lot since I lived here,” she said. “I guess I’ve changed a lot too. I got divorced a few years ago, and I felt like I had to start my whole life over.”
“I felt that way after my husband died,” I said. “I’m DJ, by the way.”
We talked all the way to Portland. I never would have imagined myself sharing details of my life with a stranger, but Karen just made me feel comfortable. When the captain announced our arrival I was almost disappointed! Karen put up her tray table to get ready for landing.
“What a cute bracelet you’re wearing,” I said.
“Isn’t it fun? I got it at the Saturday market downtown. It’s made of spoons!” She slipped it off to show it to me. I turned it over in my hand, running a finger over the floral pattern along the edges, and the little butterfly charm that dangled from the place where the two spoon handles joined.
Craig loved craft fairs. This bracelet was just the type of thing he might have picked up for me. Of course, he probably would have looked for a tulip pattern. “It’s really nice,” I said, handing the bracelet back to Karen.
“I wish I would have gotten a couple more for my daughters,” she said wistfully. “I wonder if the seller has a web site.”
“I could find out for you,” I surprised myself by saying. What am I doing? I didn’t even like talking to people I met on planes. Now I was offering to track down craft jewelry for one? It was completely out of character for me. But now that I’d offered, I couldn’t back down.
“I’ll stop by the booth when I get back to Boise,” I said. “Give me your e-mail and I’ll let you know what I find out.”
“Thank you so much!” said Karen. She was so happy, I knew I’d done the right thing, strange as it was.
She jotted down her e-mail, and I warned her I probably wouldn’t get to the fair for a few weeks. “That would be fine,” she said. “This is just wonderful! I’m so thankful to have met you. If you’re ever in Alaska, you’ve got a place to stay!”
“I just might take you up on that,” I said. She really had been a delightful companion.
My business trip went well, and I returned home to Boise. On a warm and sunny Saturday I went down to the market to fulfill my promise. Almost right away I found the booth selling spoon jewelry. I browsed the display, checking out earrings, necklaces and rings as well as bracelets like Karen’s.
“See anything you like?” asked the seller.
“I’m not really shopping for myself,” I said. “I promised a friend I’d find out if you have a web site.”
“Sorry, we don’t,” she said. “But take my card. If your friend gives me an e-mail address I can send her some pictures.”
It wasn’t perfect, but it was the best I could do. I took the card. The seller turned to help another customer. I lingered at the booth, admiring the jewelry. They really are cute, I thought, slipping a bracelet on for size. But I guess it’s not really for me….
That’s when I spotted it: a bracelet like Karen’s, only this one was engraved with tulips. Tulips! “I’ll take this one,” I said, holding it up to one of the vendors in the booth.
“Is this a gift?” he asked as he wrote out my receipt.
“Yes,” I said. “A gift for me.” An angel had surely led me to it, since Craig couldn’t pick up an anniversary gift himself.
The vendor polished the bracelet until it shone, then pointed to the empty loop that connected the two spoon handles. “You get to pick out a charm,” he said. He held up a selection. I looked over the butterflies and teddy bears.
Then my eye fell on a charm up in the corner of the case: a heart with a pair of wings. “That’s the one,” I said.
I fastened the bracelet on my wrist. The tulips sparkled in the sun, the winged heart dangling between them. It was a gift of love brought on the wings of an angel—and the wings of an airplane, thanks to my delightful companion.
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