I had the most amazing experience in Ralph’s this week.
I bet you’ve never heard that one before.
Really, I did. The entire family was sick with the stomach bug over the past several days and the husband and three kids were down for the count. Miraculously, I never got sick. I never wish to get sick, but I think its quite ironic that I’ve been holding the heads of three little ones during vomits…changing bedding and sleeping next to my ill husband…and I never got it. Miraculous indeed. I say no rest for mommy. Kudos to my super human immune system. Someday, wars will be won by the power of a mother’s immune system….and will….and patience.
I was in Ralph’s picking up some much needed items such as Gatorade, Saltine Crackers and Vernors. Out of curiosity, I meandered my way to the bread aisle, where I was planning on seeing if , in fact, all of the Hostess products were gone. Before I made it all the way to the end of the aisle, I was stopped while waiting for others to pass by. A very slow, elderly gentleman was doing his best to walk past when he stopped and looked at me. I smiled, politely, letting him know it was fine, I was in no hurry and he could take as much time as he needed.
But he wasn’t smiling in the acknowledgement that he was walking at a snails pace…he was smiling in sincere frustration.
“I just cant find anything in this store.” he said to me while chuckling at himself.
It’s true, the San Fernando Ralph’s just had its re-Grand Opening and every single aisle has been changed. I felt his frustration as I’m sure it’s hard enough for him to gather the groceries he needs, but to have everything moved…well, that would indeed be frustrating.
“Well, what is it you’re looking for?” I asked him, determined to help him find anything.
“Pudding. I’m looking for plain ‘ol vanilla pudding.” He answered.
As it just so happened, I was standing right in front of all of the pudding, which is why he couldn’t really find it. I turned around and showed him what his options were and he made a choice. He thanked me and I thought we were to both head on our way.
But, he continued….
“Have you ever heard of Little Orphan Annie?”
“Yes, I have.” I said. I was sure he was going to say I reminded him of her or something. I have blonde curly hair that has sometimes been called strawberry blonde.
“Have you heard of James Whitcomb Riley?”
I thought for a minute.. “Yes, I believe so.” The name sounded familiar and I assumed it went with Little Orphan Annie.
Now, this may be where many people walk away from the crazy old man in aisle 8 at Ralph’s…but there was no way I was not going to hear what this gentleman had to say. My husband teases me for hugging the homeless and chatting with strangers for long periods of time in random places…. I’m fully aware of my behavior. I wasn’t walking away.
He had a kind face. His hair was grey and his eyes were a deep blue. I knew this man had to have been a handsome devil in his time. He reminded me of my late grandfather. His voice was deep, a radio type. He was confident and very educated, I could tell. Having confessed to me his family was from Indianapolis, I felt a heartwarming midwest connection with him. He was truly a good man, I felt that immediately.
“Well, James Whitcomb Riley was my grandfathers best friend. My grandfather’s name was Kiefer.”
And from here he educated me right in the middle of Ralph’s on the history of Little Orphan Annie and what role his grandfather had in the famous poem that started it all.
Before I knew it, this man was reciting the ENTIRE poem to me…in it’s original Hoosier Dialect. Verbatim. The only reason I knew this, is because I Googled the poem when I got home due to the language sounding strange. In the middle of the bread aisle, this mans delivery sucked me in.
It was magnificent…….
Little Orphan Annie’s come to our house to stay,
An’ wash the cups an’ saucers up, an’ brush the crumbs away,
An’ shoo the chickens off the porch, an’ dust the hearth, an’ sweep,
An’ make the fire, an’ bake the bread, an’ earn her board-an’-keep;
An’ all us other children, when the supper-things is done,
We set around the kitchen fire an’ has the mostest fun
A-list’nin’ to the witch-tales ‘at Annie tells about,
An’ the Gobble-uns ‘at gits you
Wunst they wuz a little boy wouldn’t say his prayers,–
An’ when he went to bed at night, away up-stairs,
His Mammy heerd him holler, an’ his Daddy heerd him bawl,
An’ when they turn’t the kivvers down, he wuzn’t there at all!
An’ they seeked him in the rafter-room, an’ cubby-hole, an’ press,
An’ seeked him up the chimbly-flue, an’ ever’-wheres, I guess;
But all they ever found wuz thist his pants an’ roundabout:–
An’ the Gobble-uns ‘ll git you
An’ one time a little girl ‘ud allus laugh an’ grin,
An’ make fun of ever’ one, an’ all her blood-an’-kin;
An’ wunst, when they was “company,” an’ ole folks wuz there,
She mocked ’em an’ shocked ’em, an’ said she didn’t care!
An’ thist as she kicked her heels, an’ turn’t to run an’ hide,
They wuz two great big Black Things a-standin’ by her side,
An’ they snatched her through the ceilin’ ‘fore she knowed what she’s about!
An’ the Gobble-uns ‘ll git you
An’ little Orphant Annie says, when the blaze is blue,
An’ the lamp-wick sputters, an’ the wind goes woo-oo!
An’ you hear the crickets quit, an’ the moon is gray,
An’ the lightnin’-bugs in dew is all squenched away,–
You better mind yer parunts, an’ yer teachurs fond an’ dear,
An’ churish them ‘at loves you, an’ dry the orphant’s tear,
An’ he’p the pore an’ needy ones ‘at clusters all about,
Er the Gobble-uns ‘ll git you
It would have been great if I could have seen my facial expressions as he spoke.
Apparently the real Orphan Annie was a regular guest in his grandfathers home. She suffered a terrible fate and was killed at a young age, but nonetheless…this poem lived and obviously has a history in literature and past the pages of any book. The gentleman shared with me that he’s recited that poem for his children, grandchildren and great- grandchildren several times.
“It’s really about keeping kids in check.” He smiled.
Maybe I needed to hear that at that exact moment, for a specific reason. (Unruly kids in my home has been a conversation I’ve been having lately with friends.)
I walked away thanking that man, wishing him well and glowing in deep gratitude. I was grateful that he spoke to me out of all the people around us. I was grateful to have a little bit of history given to me in 15 minutes in Ralph’s and I was so thankful for people and their history.
I was completely disappointed however, to get to the end of that aisle and see, for real, that every single Hostess product was gone.