thoughts in the mornings

Valentine Magic

It was the day after Valentine's Day and the woman had woken with a sense of ease. She hadn't received or sent any cards and had been given a simple gift from a woman who made soaps in the Market. She was pleased for her friend who ran one of the shops in the market and whose main stays were the high days and holidays. Christmas, Easter, Valentines, End of Term, Halloween and back into Christmas with all the myriad birthdays and reasons to celebrate life in between.

The shop had been there since the start of the Mall, some 45 years previously. A small space, tucked into a corner between a hardware shop and a carpet seller, it was a constantly changing landscape of balloons and banners and party pieces for every occasion. It had literally been there since the woman herself was still at school and her own grandmother had been a stalwart customer for all the greetings cards for the family for all of those years.

Over the years of her early retirement from teaching, the woman had become friends with the owner and the shop itself had become a steadying point for her as her mobility waned and her own world became smaller and more condensed.

When she had first moved to the area, almost 30 years ago, she hadn't spent much time in the local shopping centre. She was aware of it of course, having grown up in the local area but like most full time workers, she had commuted through her local community and not paid much attention to what was happening. Work took up all the bandwidth and in her youth, there were far more exciting places to shop.

Now though, with legs that found it ever harder to coordinate themselves, the market was a focal point for achievement . The days that she could walk from her house to the balloon shop in the corner of the market were good days and it was her friend's encouragement that often motivated her.

It had been a comfort to her when she had first stopped working to find new friends who were close by. She had become friends with the cobbler first, in part because his counter was closer and the first she could reach when, all those years ago, she'd had to learn to walk again. As it was, it turned out that the two of them had gone to the same school, albeit five years apart and it had been another of the comforts at a time when her life was spinning out of control. She'd become close friends with the cobbler and they had visited the Covent Garden Astrologer each year to have their annual equinoxes read. She smiled as she thought about the lives that none of us know about. Who knew that a retired headteacher and a cobbler would have their stars read by a man called Barry. Life's little mysteries.

She'd become friends with the new cobbler who had taken over when her friend left to explore his culinary dreams. The new cobbler was a kind man who liked a laugh and a meal out and over the years, a friendship had formed as the two of them would talk about food and what they would be eating that day. They talked about places they had been, meals they'd had, places they wanted to try. Ironic really, given she'd had an eating disorder when she was first mooching about the market.

She'd spent many a moment at the key counter over the years and the young lad who had started 17 years ago as a Cobbler's assistant was now a father of two and was like a son to the woman herself. That was the real magic she thought. The love that exists in that market. People don't always notice and that was a shame she thought. So much is missed when we just hurry through. Youth. Wasted on the young. She could feel that now and she was glad for the lessons and glad for the magic of the market.

She felt a huge love for the place. For the sanctuary it had given when she was broken. For the warmth when her wife had died and life was frozen for a while. For the sheer insanity and genius of being able to make a living selling bits and pieces that people felt they needed. The balloons had always baffled her.

She thought about the scene in the shop at 5pm on Valentine's day. The men looking for something, anything, that would convey a message, keep to the tradition and keep them out of trouble. She wondered how many women had enjoyed the carefully wrapped teddy bears with chocolates and a ballon with I Love You written in glitter. She hoped they all had though she suspected some might see through the last minute charade.

Personally, she was glad not to have participated in the Valentine's malarkey. She loved her girlfriend and her girlfriend loved her. That was more than enough. With friends, a lover and kids she adored, there wasn't much else a woman could want and on that note, she stepped out into the new day, feeling the ease that was possible with love.