The Star-Herald

Wealth is measured by the heart

I was engaging in one of my favorite pastimes, at one of my favorite stores, when I noticed her standing beside me. I recognized her immediately and moved closer, saying hello. It took her a few moments to place me, but when she did, she smiled and moved toward me for a hug.

We are not doing much hugging these days, and despite my reservations and my lime green mask, I very briefly reciprocated her hug.

She was dressed in bright orange leggings, a red and black barn jacket, sandals accompanied by woolen socks, and a polka dotted scarf weaved in and out of her very dark hair. Her voice had changed over the years, now raspy and nearly breathless. We chatted about the wondrous array of bright seasonal items surrounding us, tempting and nearly irresistible. She filled me in quickly and methodically about her present and past life. She was on her second marriage, was a proud grandmother, and quite happily informed me that her second husband was a great provider and the love of her life.  I told her about my life since high school; a life that did not include children or grandchildren. I told her about my upcoming marriage to a man I deeply loved, and quite unexpectedly, she hugged me once again. 

At Caribou High School, all of those many years ago, she had been colorful in every way; singing and dancing her way from one class to another, surrounded by her peers. She had married right out of high school and moved to the Midwest, starting her family well before she turned 20 and loving her role as a homemaker. 

“I never wanted to work outside of my home,” she said. “I had no interest in going to college. My greatest interest was my babies.”  

I felt that ache deep inside as she pulled photos of wispy-haired babies wearing tiny mittens to protect their pink cheeks from flaying fingernails from her wallet. How I envied her. I congratulated her several times, enchanted by the love and pride in her eyes each time I complimented her. I assured her that she was bestowed with the grandest gift of all — her children. Her babies. 

We parted with yet another hug — one that I did not even think twice about — and I watched her wheel her cart to the checkout line. I moved toward the back of the store, my mission to find colorful napkins for the upcoming holidays. 

Most of us strive for success. Financial security. A noble career. An impeccable reputation or a revered spot in the community. We want our children to excel and to change the world one day, long after we are gone. We all have our own versions of success, as well. Is it found in tailored suits, a backyard pool, a new car in the yard, exotic vacations or the like? That day, I had the honor of being in the presence of a successful woman. Her wealth is immeasurable. She is not in a competition; she won the race long ago. She does not fret over fashion; she is adorned quite nicely with color, sparkle and comfort. 

When I ponder over a life well lived, she will be foremost in my mind and in my heart. And the best part of all? I got to hug her three times.

Please be safe in all ways, my friends. Let us be kind to one another and, most importantly, let us count our many blessings. 

 Belinda Ouellette lives in Caribou with her Goldendoodle, Barney.  You may email her at belindaouellette9@gmail.com.

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