Lee is probably not her real name. Well, maybe it’s an Anglicized version of Li. I don’t know and I’ve never asked. In my mind’s eye I simply spelled it “Lee.”
Lee is the owner of the dry cleaners where I take my spouse’s shirts, where I used to take my “work wardrobe” when I had one. It’s not the most convenient to our home; it’s near the grocery store we used to frequent when we first moved to town and that was the only grocery store. Now we have a choice of five or six, and I rarely head that far south on the main road.
It may not be the least expensive or best quality. We have a choice of five or six dry cleaners in town, too, but I’ve never tried them. Because Lee offers the best customer service. She is always upbeat, asks about my kids, is willing to hem a skirt on the same day if I need it immediately, and holds my forgotten items for months without holding a grudge.
She never needs to see the ticket. As I pull my van into the parking lot she pulls my clothes from the rack. By the time I enter the store, she’s already punching numbers into her ancient calculator. When I can’t get there and my spouse stops by to pick up his shirts, she asks after my health. Her sociability makes stopping by the dry cleaners my most enjoyable errand.
In Mandarin Chinese, the surname Li means “minister.” How fitting it would be if that is the origin of her name, because Lee ministers to the residents of our town. In Hebrew, “lee” is the first-person, possessive pronoun; it means “to me” or “mine.” This, too, is a fitting description of her. Although I am pretty sure that Lee provides friendly, personal service to each of her regular customers, over the years I’ve come to regard her as MY dry cleaner.