I knew when I walked in the door that something was different.

Someone else was sitting behind the counter. I didn’t know her, she didn’t know me.

Everything else was the same–I handed her my items, she gave me a ticket, and told me to come back in a few days.

I said thank you, and I left.

But as I walked out the door, I couldn’t help but wonder where he was. ¬†I mentioned it to my husband. “I think he’s gone.”

I returned a few days later, and there she was again. I gave her my ticket, and she gave me my cleaning.

I needed to know. “Are you new here? I haven’t seen you before”.

“Yes, actually”, she smiled. “I just bought this business”.

“Really?! I’ve been coming here for twenty years!”

She laughed–so many of the customers say that!

I couldn’t help but feel a little sad. For twenty years I’ve been going to the same cleaners. He knew who I was–before I even walked in the door he would have my clothes ready and waiting. He even noticed when I got a new car. He knew my husband even though we never went there together. We have used the story to illustrate to our kids why we feel like this area is truly home for us, and why we feel like we will stay–it is the web of relationships that are made over time that make a life. To be able to walk in to a public place and be known is part of being at home.

We exchanged names. I welcomed her, and told her congratulations. She made a good business choice. I wished her well. Even though there are closer cleaners to me now, I know that I will return. It is time to welcome her and make her feel known.

I walked away reflecting on how steadily people come in to our lives, and exit back out. Some coming in very close, others staying in the periphery. Life moves on, constantly changing. No matter how settled we are, and how much we want life to remain the same, it changes.

Some days we say “goodbye” and other days we say “hello”.