By Delilah McMasters
In another lifetime, I had this little kids clothing shop on Main Street in Mansfield. I had only been open for a couple of weeks, was shutting down for the day, when this older lady came in holding a Kindle and her purse. She asked if I was from Mansfield, why I had opened the shop, how many kids did I have? We talked for over an hour. Her husband, Felix, worked for the city and she was waiting on him to get out of a meeting, she loved to read and play Words with Friends, told me to download it. She asked if I had met Ann, did I know the coffee shop owners? She told me she had recently retired, her kids lived out of state, and finished up telling me she didn’t have any friends. I laughed and told her I doubted that, and now she had one and to come back any time.
Susan took me at my word, for the years I had the shop she showed up weekly. There was a couch in my office she would pile up on with one of the numerous baby blankets laying around, read her Kindle, doze off with her crooked toes peeking out, while little kids stared at her and whispered wanting to know if she was alive. She would get up, stretch, walk down to Jalisco’s, Mary Lou’s or Pirate Coffee to find a gluten-free snack, never meeting a stranger and being the self-appointed downtown ambassador for all of our businesses.
If Susan thought you were going through a difficult time, she would check up on you and always had a bit of advice and wasn’t opposed to opening up her home until you got on your feet. She was sincere, earnest and always interested in her surroundings. She showed up every winter with new boots, every anniversary with jewelry, tried to never miss a downtown event or a Texas Rangers home game.
Now before all of you start thinking this was a sweet little old lady, y’all better have another think! Susan loved looking at men more than I do! Whereas I might notice a good-looking man and keep going about my day, Susan would stop and make sure a man’s partner knew how lucky she was to have such a good-looking man. And in the process might allow some of her thoughts to tumble out of her mouth leaving the partner stunned and sputtering, wondering what in the tarnation just happened and who was that woman.
“Boy, he’s good looking, you better lose some weight if you plan on keeping him around!” Afterward, Susan would wander off oblivious, greeting everyone with a hearty laugh and a smile, not a clue in the world she might have said the wrong thing or left the wrong impression, I mean, good grief! She had her own man and he was 15 years younger than her!
Susan tried to help me at the shop occasionally, it always ended with me awkwardly giving discounts to moms and sending Susan down for coffee. Telling a new mom, “Boy, you sure feed her well, she doesn’t look like she’s missed any meals!” Or “You better get an extra big bow to distract from those ears!” Those comments never landed gently, but they weren’t said in a mean spirit, it was just the way she observed life. She noticed details, found them funny, sometimes she was the only one laughing, which made it twice as funny to me when I tried to explain why she couldn’t say those things to people. She always felt horrible when it was pointed out she had hurt someone’s feelings, was sad to the core if she thought someone was upset with her.
Everyone is always saying, “Find your tribe, find people who will accept who you really are.” Downtown Mansfield was Susan’s tribe. They accepted all of her quirks and energy, protected her from people who didn’t get her, and continued to include her in all their lives. Anytime there was a festival, concert, meet up at Steve’s Garden and Grill, it was a given Susan was going up on stage to dance and was going to shakedown everyone for tips for the band. And that was all perfectly fine with everyone, it was just Susan, and if someone didn’t like it, well, sorry, not sorry, this might not be the place for y’all to hang out.
The last time I had lunch with Susan she told me she was surprised I was still dating a man she knew, said he breathed through his mouth and “we” don’t think he looks very smart.” I laughed so hard I cried, and then told her that wasn’t a very nice thing to say, and then we both laughed about her having a broken filter and the “we” being “her.” Couple of months later she sent me a text late one night, we are both night owls, telling me she was proud of me for getting a job, that I needed to get back out there and show my girls how to be strong… and stop being lazy and lose some weight!
The last three years I haven’t seen a lot of Susan, but when I did it was always big hugs, kisses and questions about all my kids. She would bring me up to date on Felix and his retirement, her grandkids and her cancer.
Cancer slow danced Susan away last week, and it broke my heart just a little that she wasn’t able to see all the sweet things people posted on Facebook about her. I hope wherever she is she knows she had a tribe of people who loved her and accepted everything about her…. even the lady at the fund-raiser with her freshly fixed hairdo who Susan told, “Good golly, what did you do to your hair? It looks like you’ve been having sex in the bathroom!”
Delilah McMasters is a local resident and the mother of six. Reach her at BlessYourHeart76063@gmail.com.
Mansfield, Texas, is a booming city, nestled between Fort Worth and Dallas, but with a personality all its own. The city’s 76,247 citizens enjoy an award-winning school district, vibrant economy, historic downtown, prize-winning park system and community focus spread across 37 square miles. The Mansfield Record is dedicated to reporting city and school news, community happenings, police and fire news, business, food and restaurants, parks and recreation, library, historical archives and special events. The city’s only online newspaper launched in September 2020 and will offer introductory advertising rates for the first three months at three different rates.