Sunday, October 17, 2004

Lost Keys and Beatific Smiles

Yesterday, Smartmom had a short, pleasant conversation with Smiley Face, a woman who lives on the other side of Third Street. Smiley Face always has what can only be described as a beatific look on her face. Often, she can be seen strolling up and down Third Street with long, leisurely strides, her posture erect, her big eyes open wide, looking like she has all the time in the world.

Sometimes she walks a small dog. Othertimes, she actually sunbathes, and sets up a folding chair on the sunny side of the street. But even when she is going to work in the morning, Smiley Face never rushes, she just ambles along with that ethereal expression.

Smartmom rarely sees Smiley Face with her husband or children. A couple of years ago, during a more extended talk on the F-Train, Smartmom learned that Smiley Face's two children are in high school and she has a boring sounding job with the city. Interestingly, she is also a Big Apple Greeter, volunteering once a week to give personalized tours around Manhattan. "I enjoy showing people the sights and meeting people from all over the world," she said in her sing-songy Brooklyn accent.

On the subway that day, Smiley Face mentioned that she had attended the funeral of Dave Fontana, a firefighter from Squad 1, who died on 9/11, and had seen Smartmom there*. Like many Slopesters who attended the service, she did not know Dave Fontana but had read about him in the newspaper and wanted to pay her respects.

At the funeral, Smiley Face was moved by the eulogy, which was delivered by Warm & Funny (Dave Fontana's wife and a good friend of Smartmom's),"I want this day to be a celebration of David's life," Warm & Funny had said. "He would have been 38 today and he would have been deeply moved to see how many people loved him." Smiley Face also recalled the excruciatingly beautiful rendition of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," sung by a good friend of Dave's.

On another occassion, Smiley Face revealed that her husband has a terrible temper and is prone to loud, angry outbursts. As she spoke, she still had that beatific look on her face. But for the first time, Smartmom detected a disconnect between Smiley Face's smile and what she was saying. She could tell that her husband's temper disturbed her a great deal But Smiley Face seemed to cope with it and other matters with her characteristic unclouded disposition.

Yesterday, Smiley Face was unfolding card tables in front of her limestone apartment building on the other side of Third Street. She said that the co-op was having asbestos removed from the basement and that it seemed a good time to have a stoop sale "to get rid of all our junk down there that we don't need and never use." She said this so nicely, she might have been talking about eating ice cream.

While she set up her stoop sale tables, Smiley Face said her husband was a packrat who never throws anything away. "He has this habit of saving the boxes of every electronic item he has ever bought, in case he needs to return them to the store or move them," Smiley Face said smilingly. "He never throws away mail, magazines, receipts. I love to throw things away so I have to do it when he's not looking," she added without a trace of rancor. "Because of all his clutter, he can never find anything and he's always losing his keys."

Again, Smartmom sensed a gulf between the gravity of what was being said and Smiley Face's cheery, breezy style.

"He's always having a fit about losing his keys," Smiley Face added.

Lost keys. A subject near and dear to Smartmom's heart. Hepcat is also a packrat who never throws out computer boxes or magazines. Never. And he is always, always losing his keys. Smartmom warmed to the topic right away.

"Do you have a key holder?" Smartmom asked.

"I have a bowl for keys and mail," said Smiley Face.

"I put my key holder right by the door" said Smartmom, who bought hers, a veritable work of art, at The Clay Pot.

"Me too," said Smiley Face.

"Does your husband ever put his keys in the bowl?" Smartmom asked.

"Nope," said Smiley Face.

"Neither does mine," said Smartmom sadly.

The two stood there silently, bonded by their packrat husbands, mountains of computer boxes, persistently lost keys. They both emmitted long suffering sighs.


Smartmom wanted to ask Smiley Face how she managed to appear so sunny most of the time, something Smartmom is constitutionally unable to do. Was it genetic? Some form of spirituality? Marijuana? Anti-depressants? But Smartmom remained mum, enjoying their shared speechlessness.

"You know, it's just amazing," Smiley Face said finally. "You feel like you're the only person in the world with certain problems. But then you meet someone on the street and they're just like you."

"Yup," Smartmom agreed. "Well, I've got to run. I mean, I literally have to run," Smartmom said pointing to her running shoes, her running gear.

Smiley Face waved good bye smiling beatifically as Smartmom jogged toward Prospect Park.

* Note:
Smartmom just realized that yesterday was the third anniversary of Dave Fontana's funeral. It was also his birthday. He would have been 41. Happy Birthday Dave.


At 3:01 PM, Blogger mamainwaiting said...

i liked your piece about smiley face. I like the way the writing has a lanquid, slow, feeling, like sf. glad you got the photos today. GA

At 3:01 PM, Blogger mamainwaiting said...

i liked your piece about smiley face. I like the way the writing has a lanquid, slow, feeling, like sf. glad you got the photos today. GA

At 3:01 PM, Blogger mamainwaiting said...

i liked your piece about smiley face. I like the way the writing has a lanquid, slow, feeling, like sf. glad you got the photos today. GA

At 3:01 PM, Blogger mamainwaiting said...

i liked your piece about smiley face. I like the way the writing has a lanquid, slow, feeling, like sf. glad you got the photos today. GA

At 3:01 PM, Blogger mamainwaiting said...

i liked your piece about smiley face. I like the way the writing has a lanquid, slow, feeling, like sf. glad you got the photos today. GA

At 7:14 PM, Blogger mrs. cleavage said...

I hope this doesn't post 5 times like GA's comment :-)
Thanks for your very warm comments. I do indeed feel better, in spite of all. I will burn you a copy of my CD -- or there might be an extra one laying around the house. WB

At 2:37 PM, Blogger MrsDeserter said...

As a former resident of that side of third street, I recognize smiley face from your nuanced description. She was an important player in the barbecues on our side of the Great Third Street Divide.

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