There is a cashier at my local supermarket who greets me with a big smile every time I load my goods on her counter. She is short and a little stocky, has died short red hair that is lightly teased to cover some thinning patches. In the winter she wears a long green sweatshirt under her maroon smock and always has a few tissues stuffed in her left cuff. Her cheeks are pocked from a rough ride with acne during her teen years but a light pink blush highlights her soft brown eyes.
Her son and daughter work part time at the supermarket with her. Her husband is on disability from his job working for a local builder. He is recovering from throat cancer. She has survived two bouts of breast cancer.
She tells me she is grateful for every day as she passes my yogurt, bananas, milk, cookies, eggs, potatoes, cans, jars, and paper goods past the scanner with lightening speed. She doesn't even have to look for the bar code on most of the items, she tilts the packages as if she sees it in her minds eye.
She spent some time in foster care after her mother died and her father drank himself off the grid for a while. He cleaned up, took her and her brother back home for her remaining teen years. She married her high school sweetheart when she got pregnant, had her first baby at eighteen and took her father in when he got too sick to take care of himself. Three years later her daughter was born and her mother-in-law moved in with them.
Her son is diabetic, she shot him with insulin until he was ten and then taught him how to do it. She wants to go to Italy one day but doesn't know when since there is so much to do every day. She thinks I should eat more beets and tells me if I pickle them they will taste better.
She said she misses the sound of her husband's voice, the way he growled a little right before he laughed and in spite of all the rough days they had together they laughed a lot. Now he wheezes a bit when he laughs, his voice is repairing and it will be a while before they know whether or not he will be able to speak.
She works the register like it is an extension of her, another limb that can calculate quickly. She troubleshoots the other cashiers problems and shouts out prices without turning to see the item in question. Her conveyor belt is clean, if your chicken spills juice she wipes it down before the man behind me unloads.
She is taking a class at night, trying to slowly earn her undergraduate degree. She reads two books a week and the paper every day. She likes Hummus now after I told her to try the Horseradish flavor.
She is one of the cashiers at my local supermarket, a mother, a daughter, a student, a friend, a wife and she is a heroine.