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At my day job as a cashier at an upscale, organic foods co-op, I have lots of mostly pleasant and mostly superficial interactions with lots of mostly middle-class customers. Occasionally, customers will reveal something about themselves that gives me a glimpse into a unique and lovable human being. Those moments always feel like a gift, a pure shot of oxygen.

Last week, a woman in her 40s brought her groceries to my station and idly picked up one of the ubiquitous coupon books stacked in front of the register. Instead of opening the book to look for coupons as most customers do, she was completely captured by the little book’s cover photo.

It showed a four-year-old child covered head to toe in a heavy snowsuit and boots, lying belly down on a snow saucer, arms flung exultantly out to the sides, a grin of pure joy on her face, sledding down a hill.

Coupon book vignette

The customer mused, half to herself and half to me, “I never did that when I was a kid. My mother would never have let me go head first.” She showed me the photo, went back to looking at it and murmured, “That’s freedom…head first.” She put back the coupon book, looked at me and said, “I think I’ll do that next winter.”