Early this morning Jason and I went on a walk downtown and stopped in at an independently owned coffee shop in an old renovated building. After coming in from the chilly outdoors, we sat upstairs and sipped our hot coffees and relaxed, looking out the window at the waking city below us.
Across the street from us, through the second-story window, I spied an old building which was originally the Hibbard & Co. department store. Founded in 1892, the building became the home for Hibbards in 1914. Looking across the street at it, I suddenly remember going inside that building 39 years ago. I could hear in my memory the wooden planked floor creaking as I walked across it and the old elevator clanking and moaning as it went to the fourth floor. I could even smell the old wood, that smell that only old buildings know how to produce.
The reason I was in the store that afternoon was because of what had happened that morning. At about 5:30 a.m. I’d awakened as my parents prepared to leave the house. My mom was pregnant and “it was time.” I asked if I could go along. The answer was no, I needed to go to school. They left and we got ready, eager and excited. Even before my sister, Suzy, and brother, Keith, and I left for school, my dad called around 7:15 and told us my mom had delivered a baby girl. We were elated, to say that least.
It was December of my sophomore year of high school. Once at school, I was telling everyone. I was over-the-top excited. When I went into my third hour English class, I told my teach, Holly Kronke, that my mom had had a baby girl, that I had a new baby sister. Her eyes opened wide. She said, “Wow, no kidding. A girl in my first hour class also got a new baby sister this morning. Wow. Consider the odds of that!”
“Who was it?” I asked. “What’s her name?”
“It was Suzy Robinson,” she answered.
I looked at Mrs. Kronke, waiting, leaning in with anticipation, for her to process what she’d just said. “And my name?” I finally asked her.
Her brow furrowed with a little bit of puzzlement. What was I getting at? I could see in her expression. “Cheri? Robin—” The light came on! “Oh! She’s your sister!”
As soon as school was out, my friend Diane drove me down to Hibbards and we went shopping for something for my new sister. Up on the fourth floor, after a ride on the clanking elevator and walk across the creaky floor planks, we found a display with tiny cute baby dresses—one in pink and one in yellow—for less than $4 each. Perfect for my budget.
Hibbards closed in 1996, my baby sister is all grown up, and the little dresses are long gone, but I sure remember that significant day in sharp detail. For one brief second, I was in high school again, Mrs. Kronke was astonished to learn Suzy and I were sisters, and Diane and I had great fun on a quest for the prefect way to welcome Colleen into the world. How amazing how an old building, on a cold autumn morning, through the window of a cozy coffee shop, can become the portal back in time. It was a good trip.
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