Salute to Ames Department Store and the Gift of a Lifetime

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Does anyone remember Ames Department Stores? Ames Department Stores were the forerunners to the Walmarts of today. If you wanted to buy your items at a lower, discounted price, you went to Ames.

The second job I ever had was at Ames Department Store, where at the ripe young age of nineteen, I was hired to work behind the jewelry counter, and it was there that I discovered the gift of a lifetime! Seriously… you see, while I worked behind the jewelry counter, I came to know many of the other Ames employees and managers. 

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I would report to work at the jewelry counter, which was often quite tedious, because unless there was a sale or a special holiday, the jewelry counter did very little business, which left me with way too much time on my hands. After all, after the displays were arranged and stocked, the display cases wiped clean, and my little area was swept clean, there were often several hours left to kill before my shift ended. Also, because the jewelry department was not owned by Ames, and since Ames was not my employer, I wasn’t allowed to go to other departments and help them out, (although sometimes, when someone was very busy, and depending which manager was working, I would go to the women’s clothing department that was located beside my jewelry counter and help out).

Nonetheless, I had a lot of time on my hands, so I would often watch the other workers, taking mental notes about those who were lazy, and those who were hardworking. It wasn’t long before I noticed a handsome young stock boy who was constantly running from here to there, building anything from shelves to bicycles, stocking the various departments, cleaning the floor and the windows and painting the entire store as well, while the sweat ran down his face. He wasn’t like the other stock boys, who were either old (to this nineteen year old, anyone over thirty fell into this category), lazy, immature or arrogant.

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This young man was constantly busy, without someone having to stand over him. He was also a perfectionist, stocking shelves neatly, painting with precision, cleaning the floors and windows until they shined! He was friendly and polite, but when he was on the clock, he gave his all to the store — he was not one to cheat the company and look for ways to get out of working.

As I watched him, and admired him from a distance, I really wanted to meet him and learn more about him. I was developing a major crush on him, and several weeks went by before I actually got to meet him in person. It happened one night when I walked into the break room for my fifteen minute break. As I clocked out, and turned around, I saw him, sitting on the black vinyl sofa. Have you ever opened your mouth and stuck both feet in it? I was nervous and excited to finally meet this mystery man, and now, I was tongue-tied, and didn’t know what to say, so I blurted the first thing that came into my brain. Actually, maybe those words never crossed my brain… Perhaps they just rose up from the feet that I had firmly planted in my mouth, “Hi, I’m Cheryl. What are you?”

I wish you could have seen the look of surprise on his face as he gave a soft laugh, and said, “I don’t know, what do  you think I am?”

Have mercy! I was totally embarrassed. Where had those words come from anyway? Stammering, I tried to redeem myself, “I-I-I meant I work at the jewelry counter, what is your job?” Laughing, he told me he was a stock boy — duh! I knew that. What I’d really wanted to know was his name. Finally, my mouth caught up with my brain — or was it the other way around? Anyway, I finally asked him what his name was, and when he told me his name was Stacy, it was like a light bulb clicking on in my mind. For weeks and weeks, I would hear people at the service desk paging Stacy, and I would look and look to see who this new “Stacy” was, but I never saw a girl going up there. “You’re Stacy?” I questioned in stunned disbelief. Okay, maybe my brain and my mouth still weren’t connected. “I’ve never met a guy named Stacy before.” Yep — the feet weren’t coming out of my mouth anytime soon.

Grinning, he replied, “Hey, blame it on my mom. I didn’t pick it out.”

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“No,” I replied, trying to redeem myself, “I like it. I’ve just never met a guy named Stacy,” I said, as I sat down at the makeshift card table and lit a cigarette, trying to look cool, while he stood and walked to the time clock.

“I’m sorry,” he said, as I looked at him, feeling more than a little disappointed. “My break is over and I have to get back to work.” Darn! I’d finally gotten the chance to talk to him, and I’d made a fool out of myself, and then, before I had a chance to improve the horrible first impression I must have given him, he had to leave, while I was left behind feeling like a complete idiot.

After work on those warm summer evenings, a small group of us employees would hang out in the parking lot, chatting and smoking before going home, and it wasn’t long, before Stacy started joining our group. I’d had crushes on boys before, but never like this. There was something special about Stacy… something stable. He knew how to have a good time and laugh, but there was something that drew me to him, a sweet and gentle kindness and seriousness.

The more time I spent with him, the more I cared about him, and frankly, that scared me. Although I had dated a few times, I was very inexperienced, and coming from an abusive household, and having dealt with rejection from my peers and teachers when I was in school, my self-esteem was very low. I didn’t trust anyone, and even though he seemed to like me, there was something inside of me (a hateful demon), who whispered that if he really knew all about me, he would hate me.

So one night, after work, while we were outside talking, after everyone else had left, I decided to shock him with a little bit of the truth, reasoning that it would be best for him to dump me now, before we even got involved, than for me to fall even harder for him. Therefore, I told him that just three months earlier I had been released from the psychiatric ward of a local hospital, where I had spent twenty-one days.

I am so in awe of how the Lord works. Stacy looked right into my eyes while I was talking to him, which was very disconcerting. Then he took my hand in his, and looking straight into my eyes with compassion and gentleness, he told me that he, too had spent a couple of weeks there almost a year earlier, after coming from a bad relationship with a girl who was addicted to drugs. He was neither shocked nor disgusted by my admission, instead, he showed me nothing but compassion. 

We developed a friendship over those summer months of July and August, 1980 as my crush turned into love, but Stacy had been deeply wounded by his former girlfriend, and it wasn’t until that September, that he finally asked me out. Stacy is not a person to jump headlong into anything. He likes to take his time and think long and hard before he does anything, and I guess he thought long and hard before he decided to take a chance and ask me out. It took him another week of us going out every night before he finally kissed me. That sealed it. I was head over heals in love with that young man. After waiting for two months before asking me out, things now moved very quickly for us. Five months after our first date, on Valentine’s Day, Stacy asked my parents for permission to marry me.

We planned a June wedding, but when Stacy started working swing shift in a local factory, we weren’t able to spend as much time together, so on Friday, April 3, 1981, after dating for only seven months, Stacy suggested we get married the following Friday, April 10, 1981, so we could be together for his long weekend. I couldn’t wait to marry him, for many reasons… Yes, I loved him, and I wanted to spend my life with him, but I also wanted to escape an abusive home life.

The week before I married Stacy was one of the most miserable weeks of my life, as my parents accused me of being pregnant, and called me a whore and several other ugly names. What should have been a joyful time was marred by the curses and verbal abuse they heaped on me, as they demanded that I tell them the “truth.” I finally admitted that I was pregnant, even though it wasn’t true, hoping that they would stop the torment. I went alone to shop for my wedding dress, because my mother didn’t want to come with me, and she had no intentions of buying me one. So, since the pay from Ames wasn’t all that great, and we needed to set up house, my budget was tight, but I was blessed to find a cute little cream-colored dress at Sears for only $23.

My mother prepared an after wedding party for me at her house, and she made it very clear that she was doing this for appearance’s sake, rather than for me, because she didn’t want Stacy’s family or my grandparents and my aunt, or her co-workers to think anything was amiss. She also informed me on more than one occasion that week, that this marriage probably wouldn’t last six months. I was such a nervous wreck by the night of my wedding that when my parents and I arrived at the courthouse twenty minutes early, before anyone had arrived, I was terrified that Stacy would change his mind, and I would have to go back home with my parents’ and suffer more shame.

1976 Pinto_v1When I saw his little white pinto pull into the parking lot, I struggled not to cry, as waves of love and relief swept over me. He handed me a beautiful little bouquet of purple flowers (chosen by his mother, who was very happy for us), and gently kissed me. He was so sweet, and when he held me, I felt safe and loved for the first time. Both of our parents and my sister witnessed our marriage, and after kissing my new husband, we left the courthouse together, as man and wife.

The drive to my parents’ home was wonderful. All fear had gone for the time being, because I knew that I was going to my parents’ home as a guest now. I no longer had to live there — when I left this night, I would be going home with a man who loved me.

Stacy1_v1Tonight, it’s been thirty-two years since we both said, “I do,” and I think it’s safe to say, that the curses spoken by my parents, that we’d never make it to six months have long since been broken. My mother never commented or apologized for accusing me of being pregnant, even when it became evident that I did not marry because of pregnancy.

As I think back over the last thirty-two years, since we married, I am so grateful to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who placed Stacy into my life, even though I wasn’t yet serving Him. You see, God, in His  prevenient grace, sent a hero to rescue me from an unhappy and abusive life. He placed this man in my life, who has continued to love me, even at some of the lowest points in my life. He blessed me with a husband who believed in me, when I didn’t believe in myself. He has blessed me with a man who still thinks I’m beautiful, even though I will be fifty-two on Friday, and I’m longer the slim and shapely little nineteen year old girl he married so many years ago.

I often look back over the years, to the girl and the young man who worked at Ames Department Store, and joke that Stacy was my “red tag special,” and my “clearance item,” but the truth is, I praise God for Ames Department Store, where I met my beloved husband, and I thank God for giving me the gift of a lifetime. I really do love that man!

© 2013
Cheryl A. Showers

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