I cannot get these two words out of my head. Two small, very simple words.
That’s what a cashier said to me a couple days ago as I completed my transaction and started to push my grocery cart away from the counter.
“Take care,” she said.
She could have said, “See ya.” It could have been, “Thank you.” Or, “Come back soon.” It could have even been nothing at all as she turned to the next person in line. No. She had to say …
I walked out wondering just specifically what I should take care of. Did she know something I didn’t? The tone of her voice gave me no clue. It was neither bright and chipper nor dark and twisty. Just a monotone, “Take care.” Now, what in the world did THAT mean?
You see how my mind works? Two little words uttered in passing and I’m flipped out for days! I drove home in my Toyota Avalon with its itsy bitsy little, screaming-down-the-road-at-100-miles-an-hour acceleration issue, all the time with this chant running through my head like some New Age mantra. Take Care! Take Care!
As I eased into the garage, I decided I’d better really examine what some casual admonition from a stranger for me to “take care” actually meant and why it had such an impact. Mostly, I wanted to sort through the issue because words matter and who would know that little factoid better than someone who claims to be a writer? The selection of one word over another can create an entirely different meaning to a reader. So, I had to ask, of what was I taking care? Of myself? Of others? Of things? What? What?
Furthermore, on which word should I place the emphasis in that two-word thought? Is it on the word, Take, as in to grab hold of … or on the word, Care, as in to watch over? Good grief! That woman’s little See ya comment was going to make me drag out the dictionary AND the thesaurus and then spend hours analyzing word choice, meaning, and the gravitas of every little good-bye ever uttered by strangers over a cash register. I didn’t know if I should go back to the store and thank that woman for giving me endless hours of research and thought … or if I should craft a voodoo doll in her likeness for giving me endless hours of research and thought.
Yet, isn’t that what a writer does? Doesn’t she Take Care over her words? Her characters? Her stories?
At last, I’ve decided that I love that woman behind the register. I love her more than I love anyone now in this small and fragile moment. I love her because she reminded me that words DO matter. She gave me a moment of dialogue, followed by hours of excruciating examination, which, just in that aspect, is so poignant and human that I’ll surely use it somewhere in a story. She gave me pause and caused me to think — endlessly. She caused me to question and worry, to sort through and discard, to be bothered enough to really dig into the meaning and intent of one person’s offhand remark. In the end, she helped me to intimately understand two very simple, yet complex words … Take. Care.
And that’s precisely why I’m never going shopping there again!