Today I write about a chance meeting in the fruit section of a nearby grocery store. Several months ago, pre-COVID and wearing a mask in the market, I went shopping after work. You know, the “If I just go get the items now, I won’t have to worry about it tomorrow” kind of vibe.
As I pondered whether to buy the Fuji or the gala apples, I looked at the next aisle and saw a lady in a full-length fur coat. I watched as she looked at the bananas and I thought it would be nice to say hi.
Part of me wanted to share that my grandmother had a similar coat, though more mid-length, and that it was perfectly stored in a plastic enclosure.
So, I walked over and said, “Hello.” and told her I admired her coat and that my grandma had one as well, which was given to me and safely stored in my closet.
She was very friendly, eager to converse and since I was voted “Most Loquacious” back in my high school days, I had no problem chatting.
I told her my name was Jennifer and she told me her name. When she said her name, she said it with such vigor and pride it was impressive.
I listened as she told me that she and her husband had worked in “The Industry” and that they had provided clothing and fur apparel for the movie business.
She was beautiful and I could tell she had been that way her whole life. She said she was in her early 80s, and that her husband had passed away over 35 years ago.
I asked her if she had ever remarried and she told me she had not, but she had been in a long-term relationship, and that was now over.
She said, “Never marry a man who loves his alcohol more than he loves you!”
I giggled and told her I agreed.
She regaled me with tales of the golden era of Hollywood, something I knew a little about, because I am the granddaughter of John Roeburt, a writer of detective and mystery novels.
He was the co-author of the book “Earthquake” with Milton Berle. He had lived in New York and had won the Edgar Award for mystery writers. He died when I was 11, but I have all of his books and memorabilia, which I hold near and dear to my heart. He and my grandmother were friends with Lauren Bacall, Carl Reiner, Hedy Lamarr, and the list goes on.
I told her that I had also worked in the film industry in distribution sales, post-college. Prior to that I had been a tour guide and stage host at Universal Studios, until I graduated college and my father told me to get a “real job.”
She told me they had lived in a beautiful area over the hill, and that back in those days Castaic was a truck stop. I told her that the amount of growth was incredible since then and that I had lived here for nearly 30 years and had seen it firsthand.
She continued with her “stroll down memory lane” and I was enjoying every minute of it. She told me that she had attended many Hollywood events; she named the restaurants from back in the day. There was a famous actor, who was very much married and tried to flirt with her right in front of his wife, while attending an awards banquet.
She told me it must’ve been the backless shirt she was wearing that evening and that she had a very slender waistline, and I looked at her and thought, “You still do.”
After about 45 minutes, I said, “Well I guess I should get going, it’s getting late.”
I gave her my business card and told her if she ever wanted to go to lunch, or even come to my office and tell my co-workers about the good ol’ days that she was always welcome. She thanked me and told me to go home and get my grandmother’s fur coat out of the closet and to wear it.
I smiled and told her that I would.
As I drove home, I was so taken by this chance meeting. What normally is a mundane task of getting groceries had become a little Jennifer adventure. I pulled in the driveway; my husband greeted me and took the groceries inside. After everything was put away, I went to the closet and unzipped the bag that contained my grandmother’s fur coat.
I put it on, modeled it a bit in front of the mirror. Lights, camera, action! And I thought, “I’m ready for my close-up Mr. DeMille!”
Jennifer Danny is a writer and Santa Clarita resident.