Reasons to be Thankful for the Characters in Your Life

The other day at Wegmans, a teenage cart chaser was tossing a coke bottle into the air while waiting for that one special customer to make his day and do the unthinkable–I’m talking about Wegman’s shoppers, who would never NOT return a cart. Almost out the door, I watched as the bottle spiraled around and knocked the poor kid in the face. Talk about “Coke Is It”.

A few things happened at once:  the bottle crashed to the walkway, I halted a few feet away from him, and he sheepishly glanced around with a look we’re all familiar with, one that said, “Oh, shit, I hope no one saw that.”

Then, he spotted me.

Understanding his predicament, I commented, straight-faced, “Don’t worry, I didn’t see anything.”

The kid burst out laughing and so did I.

Together, on that Wegmans sidewalk, we briefly bonded together in mirth. Who knows what the few passerbyers thought about a teenage boy and a middle-age woman laughing hilariously. And who cares.

Today’s blog is about being thankful for the characters in your life, both those in it for the long haul and those just a blink in time. (Of course, there are those that fall into the wish you were a blink in time category . . . but that’s another entire blog.)

I love people. I love finding out what makes them tick, what their stories are, and their views on life. I suppose as a writer, this comes in handy.

One of my favorite blink in time friends is a female toll collector. Why? Her long, and I mean long, nails. Nails that reached into the driver’s side window well ahead of her fingers. Superbowl size nails, skillfully painted to reflect every holiday, sports victory, or random mood.

I used to slow down well ahead of the toll booth and search for her blond head. It would make my day just to check out her glittery, shiny, sculpted pieces of artwork. I’d marvel at the way she managed the change with the pads of her fingers, as if the coins were inferior pieces of metal unworthy of those pointy masterpieces. How she’d adeptly maneuver with them was simply amazing. After all, the one and only time I attempted faux nails, it took thirty minutes to zip my pants in a restaurant bathroom.

A shame EasyPass came along and ruined our relationship.

One of my long haul friends is Kathy. She’s the type of person who fills a room with this creative yet intelligent energy. A powerhouse, even at 5ft.2in.—counting the heels. We became fast friends while teaching English in Fukuyama, Japan. Being from center city Philly, Kathy had no clue how to ride a bicycle, our only method of transportation. Driving was not an option as steep, open drainage ditches lined both sides of the streets, just asking for trouble. I remember laughing so hard at her first attempts. But true to form, Kathy mastered biking and navigating away from those suck-me-in ditches.

Yet, I suppose it isn’t the hilarious memories of our adventures abroad that made me think of Kathy for this blog, but what she’s accomplished afterward.

After a few years stateside, Kathy joined the Peace Corps and headed to Malawi, Africa. She described how her  meals consisted of ground wheat mixed with water, like bland pancake batter. She asked friends to send spices for variety. I, of course, sent her a can of Wolfgang Puck’s lobster bisque and received an enthusiastic thank you note.

As I’ve said, Kathy is a creative, intelligent powerhouse. Her given job was to teach Malawian women how to prevent the spread of AIDS through safe sex, i.e. using condoms.

Kathy recognized a cultural problem; most women had little choice in regards to using protection. Just as she learned to steer her bike, Kathy took matters into her own hands. She rewrote the entire training manual so Malawian men took responsibility for safe sex.

I have a wonderful image of her blowing air into a rubber like a carnival balloon with an expression that says, “See, guys, this is how it works!”

She’s accomplished much since our days together in Happy Mountain town—yes, that is the translation of Fukuyama.

I couldn’t possibly write a blog on characters and not mention Allie. She’s an eleven year old with a laugh that’s contagious and a joie de vivre that shines brighter than any moonlit night. Her favorite animals are rabbits, so it was no surprise when she decided to write a story about a fluffy, white bunny pictured in her calendar.

The premise of Allie’s story is that this bunny, named January, is so sad being trapped in her cage with no one to play with her. January watches other bunnies hopping about outside a bedroom window and dreams that one day, that would be her. January’s wish came true when her wonderful owner, a beautiful girl named . . . Allie, takes her out of her cage.

A cute, eleven year old story, right? But here’s the truth: Allie wrote this story while in a cast that ran up from her ankles to her midsection. And while undergoing chemotherapy, for Allie has a rare type of bone cancer called Ewing’s Sarcoma.

Clever, insightful, and resilient Allie. Someone wise beyond her years. Someone courageous enough to embrace life in spite of her illness. Someone who always has a twinkle in her eye and a quick smile to share. A bright, joyful light that shines upon everyone and everything she touches.

When I think of the word character, I imagine someone with unique qualities like long nails. Or someone with the willpower to get things done like my friend Kathy. I imagine Allie, with such a positive, optimistic spirit that she makes you wonder how an eleven year old could be that excited about learning. And life.

Someone who will always be in my long haul category.

So this holiday season, think about the characters in your life. Family, friends, the cart pusher at the grocery store. Savor and enjoy their uniqueness, go-get-em attitudes (or not), and their spirit.

These characters, they shape who you are, too.

If you’d like more information or to donate to the Hope for Allie Foundation, please visit:

Happy Holidays!

Violet Femme,  Michele

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  1. Janet Pepsin

     /  December 5, 2011

    You’re born to blog, Michele! Another funny and fantastic entry. Being in theatre, you can just imagine the characters I’ve met in my life, lol!

  2. Thank you Janet! It’s interesting how the seeds for these blogs sprout. I think you all should comment on a “character” in your lives . . .


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