This is a happy story for a Sunday afternoon.
I've been focused all week on two things: book release and Superstorm Sandy relief efforts.
By Friday, I was exhausted, worn out, and ready for...something different.
Zoe and I had the day off, and luckily she had a great idea for....something different.
An adventure, of sorts.
"Mommy," she said, early that morning, crawling into my bed with a book. "Can we go see the spots in my Hermy book?"
I looked down at the book she held. It was this: Hermy the Hermit Crab: The Adventure Begins.
We've read it a bunch of times - it follows a baby hermit crab who grows up off the coast of Charleston, where we live. He sees some local sights along the way, including several beaches, the Charleston Battery, and the old Slave Market.
Zoe's not been all that interested in spending time downtown thus far, which is weird to me. I love downtown: it's thick with history. Old graveyards, cannons, dungeons, you name it. I love it all.
So this seemed like a good opportunity to introduce her to some of it.
We started by walking in and around the Battery, at the tip of the Charleston Peninsula, where cannons once defended the city from pirates and Union soldiers. Then we walked to the Exchange Building, which boasts a dungeon that housed criminals all through the city's history.
Zoe took one look at a creepy pirate in the dungeon, and we turned around and walked out.
Our next stop was the old Slave Market (aka Market Street), which today houses crafts instead of people. Thank goodness.
In the market, Zoe wanted to see the "Sweet Grass Basket Ladies." More than anything.
The Sweet Grass Basket Ladies sit in the market (and at various locations throughout the Low Country) making amazing baskets from different grasses, pine straws, and various other natural supplies. They make art from other people's trash, and it's beautiful.
Zoe had never shown interest in them before, but on Friday, they were her ultimate goal.
We found a Sweet Grass Basket Lady, and she looked nice. I nudged Zoe into her stall to look at her wares; to my surprise, Zoe walked directly up to the lady, holding her Hermy book out like a peace offering. Her eyes were huge. She looked as though she was meeting royalty.
The lady looked up from her basket.
"Hello," she said. "What's this?"
Zoe smiled, suddenly shy. "It's my book. You're in it."
The lady looked to me for an explanation, but then Zoe opened the book to the appropriate page. Together, they sat down and began discussing the book, our adventure, and the baskets in general.
They talked like old friends for almost ten minutes.
Finally, I had to interrupt. "Zoe, honey, it's time to go," I said, my voice filled with regret. We were due at my mother-in-law's in twenty minutes, and we had a long walk back to the car.
The lady smiled. "I have to give you something," she said, looking around her stall. "So you can always remember me and this day."
She picked out a small sweet grass wreath, and handed it to Zoe. It was purple, and matched Zoe's shirt. Zoe held it as though it was made of gold.
The lady wouldn't let me pay her; she wouldn't even hear of it. Instead, she held out her arms to Zoe, inviting her for a hug.
My child is shy. She doesn't talk to strangers. She doesn't let them high five her or shake her hand.
She certainly doesn't hug them.
But for the Sweet Grass Basket Lady, the sky was the limit. Zoe threw her arms around her neck and squeezed her tight.
We left, Zoe content and excited, me filled with shock.
I didn't get the lady's name, I'm ashamed to say...but this Christmas, I'm going to go find her. We're going to bring her cookies and a Christmas Card and a most sincere thank you.