Service of Nameless Friends

December 22nd, 2016

Categories: Christmas, Craft Show, Friends, Name, Thanksgiving

Craft Santa 2016 turned

I love traditions and one I’ve kept for 15+ years is to visit the Dutchess Community College Foundation annual craft fair in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., Thanksgiving weekend. I arrive by 9:45, after a stop for coffee and munchkins at Dunkin’ Donuts, to get a good parking spot—it starts at 10—and to stand at the door when it opens to be among the first at an exhibitor’s booth. Stephanie Stillwell has a fan club and sells out of her best pieces early. [See an example in the photo above.]

A mother with grown daughters—also Stillwell fans—usually wait with me. We recognized each other the second year and enjoyed chatting ever since.

Last year they weren’t there.

Stephanie told me that one of the daughters, [in her 50s], had suddenly died and that the family was having Thanksgiving out of town. She promised to send me contact information so I could offer my condolences—I don’t know their names or where in Dutchess County they live.

Again this year they weren’t at the entrance so I rushed to Stephanie’s booth with others. The first thing Stephanie said, even before saying “hello,” was that she couldn’t find the mother’s address and apologized for not getting back. I started to pick some wonderful quirky gifts when the mother appeared. We hugged for a long time and spoke for a short time. She said she was OK.I still don’t know their names.

When I was a kid, my mother said “hello” to countless people on the street and in the grocery store in our Manhattan neighborhood. She was better than I at names but often she’d respond, when I’d ask, that the person she’d greeted was Miss O’Reilly’s friend or someone she saw repeatedly at Mr. DiMaggio’s deli and that she didn’t know their name.

Are there people whose paths you cross of whom you’ve grown fond and/or are happy to see whose names you don’t know?



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3 Responses to “Service of Nameless Friends”

  1. hb Said:

    Your post is right after my own heart. I’m sure physiologists have all sorts of fancy names for it, from ”neurosis” to “anti-social” to “mal-adjusted,” but I’m one of those peculiar people who blocks remembering names, and feels far more comfortable using “Sir” or “Madam” than “Joe” or “Miss Higgins.” While I do enjoy people and being with them, I crave just as much the shield of anonymity when speaking with them.

    Yes, like you, I have had similar relationships from a nameless waitress who paid special attention to me at a restaurant near where I worked years ago, to a bug eyed lady walked her dog at night at the same time as I did ours.

    I’ve also had some interesting one time only ones including one with a fellow passenger on a flight out of Lagos, Nigeria. He was a Boeing test pilot who told me he had just spent a week flying a 747, which for the first time had been fully serviced by Nigerian mechanics instead of Boeing ones. The local pilots had refused to take her up.

    Or how about time one night on a vaporetto in Venice, when I cheered up in barely spoken to Italian, which he didn’t seem to mind, a despondent young man who had just been jilted by his girl friend?

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I remember the jilted Italian story that you previously mentioned in a comment.

    In a plane there was the petrified US Army wife who had never before been on a plane going to meet her husband who was stationed in Germany when she found herself on her way to Paris–sitting next to me. We worked it all out with the crew so she could relax and not shake during the trip across the ocean. Her husband had been notified for one thing.

  3. Lucrezia Said:

    The world is full of friendly folks, ranging from neighbors one nods to on the street or in the elevator, to anonymous heroes who pop out of the woodwork in times of stress.

    Years ago, I would run into fellow nocturnal dog walkers, whose identities vanished during daytime encounters. Turned out it was the dog, not the person who was remembered. I’ve often imagined possible reactions had I been honest enough to explain this state of affairs.

    Being not too swift in the name memory field, I put on my best face, hoping social inadequacies will be forgotten in subsequent conversation.

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