HOFFSTEDT: A brief encounter with a southern lady

I was in Raleigh, N.C., a few years ago. I had driven down to visit my cousin in Durham.
Jan 8, 2013

 

After our visit, I had some time to kill before picking up a friend at the Raleigh-Durham airport on our way to the outer banks for some sail boating. I decided to go downtown to see how much it had changed since I was stationed at Fort Bragg in the early 1950s. 

I parked my car some blocks away and started meandering slowly toward the state Capitol. It was a Sunday morning, and the streets were almost empty. I always carry my camera with me — and, as I was looking through the viewfinder at the scene in front of me, I heard a soft voice with a very strong drawl say something to me from behind.

I turned and saw a small African-American woman carrying a shopping bag. She was very old with gray, matted hair. And when she smiled, she showed only a couple of spiked teeth. 

On closer observation, I noticed that she wasn’t badly dressed. Her clothes were old, but not dirty or shabby. 

I said, “I’m sorry — what did you say?” 

She again spoke in that soft drawl. “Will you take my picture?” 

I was stunned. “Your picture?” I said. 

“Yes, will you?” she asked. 

I didn’t know quite what to say. “I, I guess so,” I stammered. “Where should I take it?” 

“Over there,” she said, pointing to the steps of some government building with some statues of Civil War heroes.

She moved slowly and climbed a few steps, and turned and looked straight at me. She brushed her hair with her small, gnarled hand and flashed a large, toothy smile.

I snapped the picture and asked her to stay put for a moment so I could take a few extras. I always do this just in case of a bad pose, but I started to wonder why I bothered to do it for her.

When I finished, she walked toward me and again spoke quietly. “Will you send me a picture?”

Again I was stunned. “Send you one? Yes, of course,” I replied. I fumbled in my camera bag for a pen or pencil and something to write on. “Here,” I said, “use this to write your address.”

She walked over to the steps again and began writing. She came back and handed me the paper. It was printed neatly and clearly — her name, address in Raleigh and ZIP code.

Again she spoke softly. “Please send me a picture.”

I was about to reply, but she turned and walked away. I wanted to follow her and ask questions, but I thought better of it.

The whole episode probably hadn’t taken five minutes, but I was deeply moved.

When I was home after my trip, I had the pictures developed, and hers came out beautiful. I wrote a brief note with my address and sent everything on to her. 

I never did hear back from her, but I never really expected to. I’m satisfied that somewhere in Raleigh, N.C., sits a little old African-American woman who found some small pleasure in some simple, little photographs. 

It gives me great pleasure just thinking about our brief encounter. 

— By Richard Hoffstedt, Tribune community columnist

Comments

LessThanAmused

That was a good thing that you did for her. It's really random moments like that in life that add to the overall quality of the life lived.

 

Post a Comment

Log in to your account to post comments here and on other stories, galleries and polls. Share your thoughts and reply to comments posted by others. Don't have an account on GrandHavenTribune.com? Create a new account today to get started.