It was her hands that I saw today as I quickly stacked and sliced the sandwiches for our lunch. Slow, deliberate, and graceful were her pale white hands as she delicately sliced the toasted tuna salad sandwich. How often in my life I have imagined her hands, as I hurried from one task to another?
|Delzel's Drug Store from 1958--1965, next to the Coleman Theatre.|
She worked at the Delzel's corner drugstore, just south of the Coleman Theatre. During my freshman year in high school, my girlfriends and I would run downtown for lunch. The first students to arrive always ordered and saved a table for others. There we were, already training our bodies and minds to rush, organize, eat, and run.
She was never in a hurry. Each order was written carefully as if by hands and nails that had just been painted. Then I'd watch as her soft, wrinkled hands slowly stirred the tuna or chicken salad. The mayonnaise, not ever mayo, was drawn by a rounded butter knife that made curved strokes across the face of the bread. She scooped up a perfect serving size and spread it on toasted white bread, as if it were frosting on a cake. Rarely did we order lettuce, but when we did, the leaf was sure to curl like a lace between the slices. My mind was sparked by a stark contrast when those same soft hands picked up the butcher knife to halve the sandwich. The knife seemed awkward with its hard black handle resting in her soft flesh. But, like an artist, she placed the knife at just the right angle, corner to corner, then carefully, with her left hand on the tip of the blade, she applied pressure, and with the right hand, downward went the knife, slicing the sandwich neatly in half with no meat bulging from the side.
No matter the number of orders or the time restraints we operated under, her schedule never varied--one perfectly-formed sandwich at a time, picked up like fragile glass, placed on a thick white plate, decorated with an even number of chips and one sweet pickle. She hand-delivered these sandwiches to each of us as a mother might prepare for a family she never had.
After school we'd often stop at the drugstore for a cherry coke, and she'd tell us about her nephew who was about our age. We wondered if she had a husband, or if she was a spinster. Did we even know her name?
Today, I saw my her hands in mine as I pulled out the lite mayo, relish, and celery from the fridge, opened the can of tuna in water, lunged for the bread in the cupboard, and then began an unmeasured mixing of flavors and colors to build my own tuna salad sand. Just then the phone rang and Murphy Doodle, our puppy jumped to help me find the phone. "Unknown" strikes again. I growled at the phone like a dog with a bone.
Then I turned back to the tuna, washed my hands and took a deep breath. "Slow down," I heard a voice inside of me whisper. I looked down at the counter and saw my hurried hands. They suddenly looked older, softer, but scratched and scared with time. Brown spots covered the back of my hands, blue veins stood out creating an unevenness in my thin skin.
With a deep breath I found myself remembering and chuckling over time. . . seven grain bread on our plates, no white bread for decades. Lettuce fresh from the garden topped my husband's sandwich, and filled my salad bowl (no carbs, no bread). I stopped, smiled, turned to a drawer and pulled out the ice cream scoop. Slowly, I picked up the tuna and placed it perfectly on top of my salad, then I gingerly added sliced almonds and yellow banana peppers for taste and color. A smile crossed my face, and memories danced in my head. I saw her smile at me.
She had watched us grow, graduate, and take on the world, but I don't believe we ever said good-bye, so I cherish her memory.
|The Timeline of building occupants connected to the Coleman Theatre. Thank you Ron Enderland at Miami Oklahoma History|