He caught my eye from across the park as he ambled closer in his tan Dickie coveralls and straw hat. I flashed a quick smile and continued to arrange my table, eager for customers to stop by. Before I knew it the gentleman was standing at my table immediately asking me all kinds of questions about my craft. It was the first real sign of interest anyone had shown our booth all morning so I was excited to engage. We hit it off instantly! He told me his name was Willie and that he was originally from Michigan. He spends his winters in Foley, AL because after years of hard work he enjoys the sun more than the snow.
As people continue to walk by the booth Willie begins to stop them. “I bet you don’t even know what this is” he would say. The majority of them would shake their head no and glance around trying to figure out how to politely walk away. Willie didn’t give them the chance. Before they could even say another word he was guiding them right back to my table, parking them right in front of me. He would give me a quick nod and smile as I broke into my well-rehearsed speech regarding letterpress cards. Before I was finished with one group, he would be leading up to the second group of confused but polite onlookers.
We became a well olied machine, Willie and me. I don’t know if it was his straw hat, or the mischievous twinkle in his eye but the rest of the crowd seemed just as taken with him as I was. He stood with me for hours. Occasionally he would wander off to look at other booths but it was never long before he made his way back. We talked about his youth, his wife, his kids, my dreams, and my future plans. He looked me in the eyes and said “young lady everyone has a story, you just have to get them to talk”. I always like being called "young lady". What were hours felt like minutes, it was like we had been friends for years. He told me about the grocery store he worked out, how he ached for his wife, who was his best friend gone now for two years, he even called his daughter so I could chat with her. The sun started setting and Willie decided it was time for him to home. He handed me a sucker he caught at the parade and grab a few cards for himself, told me goodbye, and strolled back to his vehicle.
I may never see him again. But, Lord I hope I do. I hope I get the chance to thank him for that sucker that is still in my purse, to give him a hug, and to hear him call me young lady again. More than anything I hope I get to hear more of his story and let him know he is now a part of mine.