Beatrice was raised by a very judgmental mother who didn’t like her much.
Beatrice saw the mother and daughter on the street outside of gallery as she went up the steps. As she juggled her keys and coffee to unlock the door she hoped they would move along soon.
It wasn’t that cold out but it had been cold overnight and they were both barefoot. Their shoes had been stolen at the homeless shelter the night before. The mother, named Emily, was hoping the shelter would have extra shoes, but they did not. She had come downtown hoping the church caring center would have some and was waiting for it to open. She stopped in front of the gallery because there was a ledge just the right height for her daughter to sit on with her doll. Her daughter, named Cerise, had to go to the bathroom very badly. The mother was hoping she could wait until the caring center was open but it looked like she might not be able to. She finally decided she had to go into the gallery to see if they had a bathroom.
Beatrice heard the door open while she was in the back turning on the computer in the office. When she went out and saw it was the mother and daughter she rolled her eyes, sighed heavily and went up front to confront them. “Yes, may I help you?” She asked.
Emily said, “We are waiting for the church caring center to open down the street but my daughter really has to go to the bathroom. Would you mind if she used yours, please?”
Beatrice said, “Yes, she may, but make it quick.” She walked towards the back, sweeping her arm behind her indicating for them to follow. She pointed to a small door and said, “There, please be quick and clean up after.”
Cerise was quick and did clean up after. Emily thanked Beatrice and started to walk back to the front to go out. Beatrice stopped her with a hand on her shoulder and said, “Hold on a minute. I really have to say I am bothered by you allowing your daughter being barefoot in the city like that, not to mention yourself. It’s dangerous on the sidewalks with trash and glass and all sorts of things. Why are you barefoot?”
Emily explained about the shoes being stolen. Beatrice said, “But why did you allow them to be stolen? Why weren’t they on your feet? Why were you at a homeless shelter in the first place? Your child is very young, you should take better care of her.”
Emily by this time was holding Cerise close. Cerise in turn was holding her doll even closer. Emily said, “Yes, you are right. I wish I had taken better care of her. Thank you for letting us use the bathroom. We won’t bother you again.”
Beatrice said, “I hope you don’t and I hope you get your act together. It’s not good for her.”
Emily and Cerise went outside and down the street to the Church Caring Center. It had opened and it turned out they did have shoes they could have, along with socks and sweaters for both of them. Cerise had been crying about the lady in the gallery. She asked her mom, “Why was that lady so mean? She really scared me. You should have told her the whole story, then maybe she wouldn’t have been so mean.”
Emily responded, “You know Cerise, sometimes it really doesn’t matter if someone knows the whole story. They need to judge and so they will judge, no matter what. You and I know the story and we both know why we were at the homeless shelter. We know what we are doing and why. That is what matters.”
Beatrice told the story of the homeless mother and daughter to five different friends over the course of the day. Four of the friends agreed that the homeless mother was bad and that the daughter should be taken from her and put in protective custody. The fifth friend, a wealthy gallery patron named Jill, told Beatrice she thought she had treated them badly. She said what they needed was kindness, not judgment.
Beatrice was rather taken aback by this and asked why she was making such a big deal about it. Jill said, “I once was homeless when I was quite young and people treated me the same way. I already knew all the negative things about myself and how I had ended up homeless, I didn’t need other people telling me the same thing. What I needed was help and understanding. Luckily for me I got that help, and ironically it was actually from a gallery dealer in Los Angeles. Without his understanding and help I never would have gotten out of the jam I was in.”
A few weeks later Emily and Cerise were in the same gallery neighborhood again. This time they had shoes on. Emily had gotten a part-time job at a coffee shop about a block from the gallery. The coffee shop owner had said Cerise could stay there as long as she didn’t bother her mother too much while she was on duty. It would only be for a few more weeks then school would start again for the fall and Cerise wouldn’t have to be there during the day. Cerise sat at a little table near the window and drew in the sketchbook they had given her at the Church Caring Center a few weeks before.
Beatrice usually came to the coffee shop around 9:30 am, right before she went to open the gallery. This day she saw a little girl through the window as she approached. As she walked past she bent down, pointed at the drawing and said, “You are a very good artist. Keep at it and one day you might be famous, who knows!” Cerise looked up and recognized the woman as the mean person from a few weeks prior, but Beatrice did not recognize Cerise. But when she came to the counter she most definitely did recognize Cerise’s mother, Emily. She remembered the green eyes, the strong eyeliner and the red hair up in a bun. Emily recognized Beatrice as well. They stared at each other for a moment. Beatrice could feel her cheeks flushing with blood.
Emily asked, “Hello, what may I get for you today?”
Beatrice answered, “Um…I will have…um….I will have a large Cafe Mocha please.”
Emily said, “Will that be all?”
Beatrice answered, “Yes. Um….you were in my gallery last week, right?”
Emily responded, “Yes. My daughter used the bathroom. Thank you for allowing that.”
Beatrice said, “Um….yes. No problem. Anytime.” She felt particularly stupid after saying that.
Emily said. “Your drink will be ready over to the left. It should be just a minute.”
Beatrice moved over to the counter at the left. She picked up her drink and was on her way out when she returned to Emily. She said, “I am sorry for the attitude I had that day. It was mean and judgmental and I regret it.”
Beatrice looked up from ringing something up in the cash register. “I appreciate that. We are used to that attitude, you aren’t alone. But you are the only person who’s ever apologized to me for it. That means a lot. Thank you.”
Beatrice asked, “Where is your daughter?”
Emily pointed to the front and said, “You already talked to her, she is the little girl at the window over there.”
Beatrice Asked Emily her name and the name of her daughter. She shook Emily’s hand, said her apology again and walked over the Cerise. She kneeled down to Cerise’s level, forgetting that her skirt was short and was probably exposing too much, and said, “Cerise, my name is Beatrice. I own the gallery that you came into last week to go to the bathroom. I remember being mean to your mother and you and I should not have been like that. I wanted to come over and apologize to you. Will you forgive me?”
Cerise said, “Yes, I will. Mom says when someone treats us mean it usually means something is hurting inside them and that we should hope that hurt goes away for them instead of us feeling hurt about what they said.”
Beatrice stared at Cerise. She couldn’t talk for a moment. Finally, as tears started to gather in her eyes, said, “Yes, your mother is a very wise woman. She is right. It is much more about my hurt than anything about you. Once again, I am sorry and I hope you won’t hold it against me.”
Cerise said, “I won’t, I promise. By the way, thank you for saying you liked my drawing when you came in. That made me happy. I am not very good yet but I like drawing so I do it anyway.”
Beatrice said, “You are better than you think you are, I can tell you that much.”
Beatrice left, crying.
Two days later Beatrice went back in the coffee shop and saw Cerise and Emily again. She asked Emily if it would be ok if some days Cerise spent her time at the gallery instead of the coffee shop. Emily said it was ok with her if it was ok with Cerise. Beatrice went over to Cerise and asked, “Cerise, I had an idea last night. Would you be willing to spend a bit of your time during the day at my gallery instead of here? You can still draw of course. But you can do other things there too, maybe even help me with some stuff. And we do have a cool cat that needs some company.”
Cerise looked over at her mother who nodded her ok. Cerise smiled and said, “Yes, that might be fun.”
Cerise spent an hour or so each day at the gallery for the remainder of the summer. She drew a lot, often drawing the cat sleeping in the sun. She also learned how to hammer a nail, cut a mat, wire a frame and paint pedestals. As the end of summer approached Beatrice’s assistant announced she was pregnant and going to be moving the the suburbs with her husband, who was taking a job in Greenwich.
Beatrice offered the assistant job to Emily, who accepted.
That was five years ago. Beatrice has since opened a second gallery uptown. Emily is in charge of the downtown gallery and is making quite a name for herself as an astute judge of talent and an excellent curator. Cerise is just entering high school and has decided to major in art when she goes to college.
Beatrice keeps in contact with her friend Jill, who is also great friends with Emily and Cerise. Beatrice has no idea what ever happened to her other four friends.