The Flea Market and Charles

This kind man touched us in many ways. I hope he will touch you too. This is from “Notes To Stephanie: Days Remembered” and is one of my favorites.

The Will Rogers Flea Market was one of those “good old places” in Fort Worth that you and I visited many times. Well, good for you, since going through the seemingly endless rows of junk was never my favorite thing to do. But you liked it, and we combined that activity with lunch or going to the Flying Saucer for a beer or two on our way home.

Walking down the aisles of the livestock barn where the flea market was located, one saw a strange array of things such as old household goods, collectibles, and junk better off at the dump. But occasionally there was a shining jewel among the mostly dull and useless refuse that was there. One such treasure was meeting Charles and buying his dead wife’s cherished beading supplies. It was a stroke of good fortune since the beading supplies had value, especially the real turquoise pieces, which he sold to you for pennies on the dollar. And it was a wonderful event, too, since Charles was a good man and pleasant to be around each time we went to Will Rogers.

Certainly, he was kind by giving us such a good deal on what was left of his wife’s earthly treasures. But what struck me most about him was how he remembered his wife. Like a lot of people, he had been married to his wife for many years and was shaken by her death. You could tell he missed her deeply; and at the same time, he carried himself upright through life, tending to his daughter and grandson, who he also dearly loved. And if I remember correctly, he said he had a slowly progressing terminal disease as well. But even with these hard things in his life, he always had a good outlook on things and was friendly every time we saw him.

His kindness to us, two people he hardly knew and owed nothing, was an exception compared to some in that flea market, who tried to sell you junk or outright cheat you. Selling his wife’s beads was also as much an act of remembering her as it was selling goods he no longer needed to keep. He said he hoped you would enjoy the beads as much as his wife had. He seemed happy to see the excitement in your eyes as you beheld the riches in your hands, just as he could still see his beloved wife doing.

The many pieces of jewelry you made did give you pleasure. You made your fellow teachers guess where you got them. You never told how you made the sets of earrings and bracelets or the story behind what you crafted and wore. You see, by using her beads, you honored Charles and his wife. Your work with those little trinkets and stones made her live on just as she did in Charles’s mind. So when you strung one of those beads, you did it in honor of his wife, whom he still deeply loved, and also in honor of the good man he was.

You can now see that Charles made an impression on us in more than one way. Seeing him was always a pleasure, but it was something we took for granted. We thought he would always be there, just like the old livestock barns at Will Rogers never seemed to change. But one day he left; his market stall was no more. He moved to Houston with his daughter, departing from the flea market and our lives. We wanted to contact him, thanking him once more; but he left no forwarding address with anyone there and was gone.

Indeed, he departed; but like the memories of his wife, who he loved and longed for so, the memory of him is still inside me. It makes me smile, feel a little sad, and wish he is well each time it appears. Hopefully one day, we will be remembered the same way by people we were kind to, just as Charles from the flea market is now by me.


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