The anatomy of a people-watcher

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By Christie Elkins

I never really understood why he did it, or moreover, why he decided to bring two small children along for the ride. But now looking back, it was either for inspiration, entertainment, or boredom. But my grandfather was a self proclaimed people watcher.

These were long before the days when we had a Wal-Mart in town, and Lowe’s was only a contractor’s pipe dream, so we frequented Riggs Drug Store and Woodson’s Mall in LaFollette. His pockets were full to the brim of quarters for the candy machines; my brother’s favorite was the chicken that laid the golden eggs that squawked loudly across those concrete mall walls. He would shake hands with all the gentlemen and their wives perusing the mall, darting into and out of shops when a familiar face was spotted, while I stood as still as a statue in the display windows of the department stores, pretending to be a mannequin. As if someone would truly believe that the seven year old standing there in the neon stretch pants was in fact a plastic figure from a factory. But that is what you do when your grandfather talks to friends and strangers. You wait. Very quietly. Because you really want to know about Desert Storm, the George Bush Sr. administration, and the current price of gasoline. Clearly, I was not your typical seven year old girl.

The thing is, as odd as I found his people watching skills, I would give anything if he could watch me now. He left nine years ago this week, before any of my children were born, barely before I changed my last name on my driver’s license. He watched me grow up, watched me graduate high school and college, he sat on the very first pew in the small church that day we said our vows. He sat close to watch, to see life, to never miss a moment. Oh, how I wish he could see my chapter too.

That is the beauty of a people-watcher. They do not necessarily have an agenda, but they just love people. The feel of a firm handshake, the comfort of a pat on the back, the breath of true day to day living poured into a simple conversation over a Styrofoam cup of coffee. The love of laughter that bellows from your stomach so deep you can barely come up for air.

So the next time an older gentleman or lady stops you at the store, take the time to speak with them. Let your kids be as still as statues and soak in some wisdom. Sometimes the best moments happen when we are standing still.

Christie Elkins is a Campbell County native whose columns appear weekly on the Lifestyles page of the LaFollette Press. She’s a mother of three and a full-time blogger at www.lettersfromthenest.com