One day at the health food store, my brother-in law came up to my mother. She was working in the front, selling vitamins, She knew every vitamin in the store and what they were for. My brother-in-law said, “Tobe, you’re gonna have to change what you wear. You’re gonna have to wear jeans and boots and a shirt without a bra.” She came to the store in tailored skirts and matching jackets tapered at the waist. She wore character shoes from Easy Spirit with a strap across the top. She laughed. There was an old, manual cash register she learned to work. It was on its last legs, and when it died my brother-in-law replaced it with a more complicated, electronic kind. She said, “I will never learn to use it.” He took her in a back room and taught her to work it. She wasn’t the kind of person who, after she learned something, made mistakes. She had not worked in all the years I knew her, and I wonder what it took for her to decide one day to go to the store. The nine years my brother-in-law owned the health food store were the happiest of her life. People asked for her when they entered. She was nicer than she really was. We are all nicer than we really are serving people, listening to their stories, feeling useful, hearing our names called out. Off stage she was shy.

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