I think of coincidences as generally happy happenstance: You hum a song and moments later, it’s on the radio. You think of a friend and — voila! — they call. You search for your keys and find them beneath your bed (why did you even think to look there?!), only to also find the earring you assumed was lost forever.
Signs are different; they feel different. They make you stop, look and listen. They answer a question, give you direction, instill belief in yourself, others and the Universe.
Three summers ago, my youngest was college-bound, causing family members to redefine themselves as individuals and as a unit. I knew Jenna would be fine; she’d forge a new life with new friends. But what of Joe and I? I’d heard that when kids leave home, the ties between couples often frayed. Would that be true for Joe and me?
That summer, I drove three hours to Fredericksburg, Virginia, and spent a weekend with a friend. We talked for two days and nights and went to a movie. It was dark when we stepped outside, which made the signs of restaurants and shops that much brighter. And there, in the distance: Joseph-Beth Booksellers.
I laughed because, well, how could I not? Consider:
Had I not been in Fredericksburg or that particular movie theater, I never would have stumbled upon Joseph-Beth Booksellers. In fact, I doubt there are many (any other?) Joseph-Beth Booksellers in the country. Ditto for Joseph-Beth Books, Joseph Books or Beth Books. The fact that I write books and theirs is a bookstore — not a bar, hair cuttery or antiques shop — surely goes beyond coincidence. It can only be a sign.
But this is what convinced me: The hyphen. Joseph (hyphen) Beth Booksellers.
That hyphen confirmed what I had hoped but also somehow knew. The ties between Joe and me would hold, and if we were smart about it, they would strengthen.
We’re being smart.