There’s something about living in a small town. There is even more to be said about working at the local watering hole. You become attached to the people you work with and the patrons who walk through the door every single day. They become family.
You fight like family and you love like family.
This reigns especially true at a little place called Polly’s Variety.
I grew up right next door to the owner, Lisa. And once I turned 18 and needed a job she took me under her wing as an ice cream girl at the little ice cream shop she owned next door. Soon enough I was a cashier in the main store and spent over two years there learning everything I could. During this time Lisa became my second mother and her own mother became a great presence in my life. Polly, Lisa’s mother, and the store’s namesake taught me tips and tricks on working the cash register and speaking to the customers like she once did when she ran the store with her late husband, John. I admired her spunk constantly. Never once did she act her age, age was just a number in Polly’s book and she was as sassy and fun as ever.
Eventually, I had to make the hard decision to leave the store and I moved away for a few years for school. I returned when my own mother passed away and Lisa was a tremendous amount of support in mourning and life in general. Through a financial rough patch she once again took me under her wing and I was back working at Polly’s Variety. This time was even more special than the last. Being older I came to appreciate the people who I spent my working hours with each day. This time around I worked the early morning shift and spent much more time with Polly. She brought in donuts every week and called every single morning to make sure we didn’t need anything at the farmer’s market. When she walked into the store she greeted customers with hugs, speaking french fluently to some. We always wondered if she was talking shit about us.
I spent one more year at Polly’s Variety before leaving once again to pursue my current job. When Polly found out I was moving on from the store she gave me a big hug and her well wishes. It has always been sad leaving Lisa, Polly and the women I worked with day after day. However, I guess I just assumed I would see Polly again. I am sad to say that wasn’t the case.
Hearing of her passing shook our small town. We all truly thought this spitfire of a woman would live forever. I knew missing her funeral was not an option. So this past Sunday I reunited with fellow Polly’s girls, store patrons and several family and friends to not only mourn but celebrate Polly. The place was packed, we all knew it would be.
The service was perfect, light-hearted and true to Polly. We all laughed and cried together as he spoke of Polly’s life. A few things will stay with me forever. One description of this wonderful woman was something like this. “On one hand she was a loving caring woman, and on the other she was Polly”. We laughed about her driving and the time she locked herself IN her car. Which I had the pleasure of witnessing. I thought about her need to remind me to fill the decaf pot, seeing as she drank a whole pot herself. The way she made sure the donuts were wrapped perfectly and placed in the basket she picked out on the counter. Especially how she always had her nails done for whatever holiday was coming up and loved to show them off. And I cried, laughed and nodded as he said “the girls at the store loved her and feared her”.
It was perfect. And it was Polly.
We spent the remainder of the afternoon reminiscing. I sat with four of my fellow Polly’s girls and we talked about working at the store. How regardless of everything, that store shaped us into the people and workers we are today. We are an elite group, us Polly’s girls. People walked past our table exclaiming how great it was to see us together. And it truly was. We joked with the customers we have known for years and hugged and cried with those we grew up with. Though it was a sad way to reunite, it was a nice one. Polly did and still does bring us together. Without her, Lisa, our customers and that store we would not be who we are. For that, I am forever grateful.
Because once a Polly’s girl, always a Polly’s girl.