This has been in drafts a while and it's certainly longer than 55 words and maybe a little circuitous for Da Count, but it's what I am counting today...
I was about 13 and had been going through that awful growth spurt that leaves you all arms and legs and not knowing how to work this suddenly gangly body, in addition to the curves that in very early adolescence began to burst out all over the place. My mother worked in a horrid little garment factory for a man who regularly cheated her out of wages. She could barely afford to keep me in clothes because I was growing so fast. It was an unseasonably cold late October and I had no winter coat.
My paternal grandmother, Mom-mom, worked at a women's clothing store on the main street shopping district of the next town over from us. It was a small, family-owned shop that had been dying a slow death as its owner, his employees, and the customers aged and the new mall sucked new shoppers away from the downtown. The owner was Mr. Reuben, a short, smiling man who used to speak Hebrew blessings over my brother and me when we came to visit my grandmother at work.
We stopped by to see Mom-mom during some sort of errand one blustery day. Mr. Reuben welcomed us as always while my mother and grandmother exchanged pleasantries. I wandered around the store passing through the racks of rather matronly fashions and then spied a rack of coats. They were nice coats that looked like something a person my age would actually wear. The plaid wool coat with a thick fleecy lining and hood that zippered open to lay flat against your back was so pretty and warm looking. I was excited and quickly looked at the price tag. Fifty dollars! Oh my word! I knew darned well there was no way on God's green earth my mother could afford a fifty dollar coat. I dropped the sleeve of the coat and quickly turned away from it to see Mr. Reuben smiling.
He urged, "Try it on, honey. See how it fits."
"It's $50. It's too much, Mr. Reuben."
"Nonsense!" he retorted.
I looked at my mom who agreed she didn't have that kind of money. By now Mr. Reuben had pulled the coat off the hanger and was draping it over my shoulders. "Slide your arms down the sleeves, sweetheart. You can try it on and not buy it. Just see if it fits." My mother scowled. My grandmother seemed to exchange a knowing glance with Mr. Reuben as I felt the warm coat wrap around me. Mr. Reuben spun me to face the mirror and asked me what I thought. I really did like the coat and it fit nicely but I knew there was no use since we couldn't buy it so I stood there stammering non-commitally. He interjected, "It fits, the color looks good on you. Does it feel nice and warm?" I said it did. "The coat is yours, honey. You take it." Turning to my mother he said, "Don't you worry about paying for it. She needs a good coat and it is nice on her."
I was stunned by what I considered extravagant generosity and was excited to think this lovely coat could possibly be mine. My mother's face remained stony and she quietly thanked him for the offer but stated she did not care for charity. A lesser man than Mr. Reuben might have taken her response as a slap in the face. He just smiled warmly and said, "Well, I never gave her a gift when she was born and she just had a birthday. So I am giving it to her now. It's not charity. It's a gift. Take the coat."
So, my dear child, this is why I have such a low threshold of tolerance when you whine about being required to select a second coat that will do a better job of keeping you warm when the snow flies after I've already bought you the stylish froufrou coat for autumn.
I'm counting the kindness all those years ago, and that I can properly clothe my own kids today.