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Pay it Forward Popsicles
An Appreciation for Kind People
Two stacked paper cups filled with coffee were tucked under my chin as I listened to the gears of the hotel elevator turn. I heard voices floating out from the inside, yet the doors stayed firmly shut.
Around the corner, I heard another elevator come and go.
I hit the button again, wondering if I had somehow messed up that simple task.
“What’s the saying?” An older man in a gray, long sleeve athletic shirt and blue shorts walked up to me. “A watched pot never boils?”
I paired a light laugh with a smile, both to be polite and because I was happy to have someone nearby to validate that the elevator was taking an exceptionally long time.
I didn’t have a lot of energy for small talk though, and I stared back at the silver doors. Zoning out, I reflected back on my chaotic week.
A few days earlier, my sister and I had driven up to the nearby big city so that my sister could have surgery. We met up with my mom who had flown in to help take care of my sister during her recovery phase. Outside of being a loving mother, my mom was a nurse for a couple decades so in a time like this, she shines.
Though my sister’s surgery wasn’t a tricky one, we were all still eager to get on the other side of it. Not that any of us acknowledged our Big Feelings, a term I learned reading a children’s book last week. As we got closer and closer to the surgery day, we became more tightly wound and every decision turned into a mini fight. Do we take out food or eat in? Who’s going to drive? At one point, my mom refused to get out of the car to make her point. I may have yelled. Stubbornness is strong in my genes.
Luckily, my sister was assigned to be at the hospital at 5:30am, so on the day of her surgery, she was in and out by the time my mom and I ate lunch. The surgeon called to let us know everything went “perfectly” as soon as he was done and my mom may have cried once, twice, possibly five times.
When we picked my sister up, she was a little high off the combination of meds they gave her for anesthesia but otherwise had wide eyes and looked great. In the hotel room, she asked us to shut all the drapes so she wouldn’t trigger a migraine and then she promptly fell asleep.
Relieved, I realized I was tired and hadn’t had enough coffee. My mom mentioned she saw they had put out a fresh pot downstairs so I went to grab some for us.
In the lobby, I realized that was one of the first moments I’d been alone since we had arrived in town a few days earlier. The week had gone from chaotic to calm, but it was nice to have a minute with my own thoughts.
A pint of green ice cream caught my eye in the hotel lobby and I went to go check it out. My sister’s throat was going to be sore for a few days and the plan was to slowly introduce soft foods back into her diet. I looked at the small tub of Talenti’s Mediterranean Mint, honestly a little disappointed because I thought it was pistachio. Then I chastised myself because that’s my favorite ice cream, not my sisters. Ice cream would be a nice surprise though. $8 felt a bit overpriced, though I chastised myself again for being cheap.
Feeling myself overthinking the decision, I put it off.
When the elevator finally arrived, the older gentleman and I smiled at each other as we walked in. Pushing 2, I asked him for his floor which happened to be the same one.
“How long are you here for?” he asked me as the doors shut.
“Sunday,” I left a couple days off since I didn’t know him. I wasn’t too worried though. The hotel sat on the hospital campus, so it was common conversation to talk about how long people were staying and inevitably, why they were there.
“I have a box of popsicles if you’re interested,” he continued, “I leave tomorrow, so I don’t have a need for them anymore.”
While popsicles do seem like a classic villain troupe for luring children, I was too tired and touched by the offer to let my fear of being kidnapped kick in.
Plus, my mom was waiting for me. Also, I’m an adult.
“That would be amazing! My sister had surgery this morning and it would be perfect for her throat.”
“In that case, I have a box and a half for you.”
As we walked out of the elevator, we realized we were neighbors.
“I’ll come knock on your door in a bit,” he promised as he walked into his room.
I stood outside my own door for a second, wondering how all this was happening. My mom must have heard me because the door opened and she peeked out of our dark haven to find me simply standing there.
A few minutes later, as promised, the man knocked on our door.
As my mom and I opened it, I realized he didn’t have a box of popsicles in his hand. Instead he had a large cardboard box filled with hummus, crackers, Activia yogurt, corn dip, a variety of Naked juices, frozen breakfast sandwiches, sauerkraut and of course, boxes of honey suckle and coconut popsicles.
“I have my last radiation session tomorrow and figured I’d find someone to give all this food to. If you have any left over when you leave, pay it forward.”
He came and went quickly. My mom and I stood in our dark hotel room shocked. I saw tears start to form in her eyes but before she could cry, my sister opened her eyes.
“Hey, how are you feeling?” I asked her. “Do you want a popsicle?”
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