"Mama! Mama! Look at me!" My daughter is twirling in the dress up aisle, showing off a cape and crown.
"Mhm. That's nice." I glance briefly at a scene I've watched a hundred times. The baby is starting to wake up in the ergo, squirming and rooting for milk. Grr. I forgot to wear two shirts so I get to decide whether I want to show off my breast or my back in the store. I look down as I hear a clatter.
The toddler has pulled down a box of My Little Pony characters and is sliding them across the floor of the store. A lady squeezes past us, gives me the eye. A lot comes across when people give me the eye. Mainly the message that their lives have been irrevocably harmed in some way due to having to navigate past my loud family with too many children. And the SHOES. Where are my 3 year old's shoes? I make an audible sighing sound. It's another long grocery trip. I long to be alone.
That's when I notice another lady hovering outside my direct vision. She's peering at us, hesitantly. I cringe, thinking some comment about breastfeeding or large families is about to fly my way. But, something isn't quite right. I peek back at her, notice tears running down her face. Hmm.
At this point, my daughter has floated to the doll aisle so I make monumental efforts to move the semi-truck, I mean, multiple-person-cart over to that aisle. She has picked up her favorite dolls and is naming them, talking about them. She wants to bring them home and add them to her overpopulated baby doll corner. That's when I hear a quiet sob. I turn around to see the same lady standing there.
Before I could ask her what's wrong, her words fall out, a flood crashing over me.
"My little girl had curls just like her. She was so bouncy and bright. I'm sorry. She lost her cancer fight right before her 6th birthday. I'm sorry. She was beautiful. She is beautiful. You are blessed. I'm so sorry."
She kept saying sorry, as if somehow she had stepped into a sacred moment, somehow made little ripples in our tiny pool with her tears. They were falling like raindrops, upsetting everything, changing everything. They were crashing down, washing away, falling through the surface.
She dried her eyes and kept walking, gone as quickly as she had appeared in our lives.
But, oh my, what lasting ripples she put in my little pool of life!
As my shoulders started to shake and tears ran down my face, everything in that store turned upside down. No longer was I mired in the toy department, stuck on some bored expedition while the more important parts of my life were delayed.
Here I was, selfishly caught up in my own meaningless worries. The grocery list. I looked over at my daughter's curls. She had carefully chosen a blue ponytail to match her shirt. I looked down at the grocery list, squinting through tears.
Vanilla extract- organic?
This? This is what was more important than being present with my children? Fruit and extract and bulbs?
My daughter, recovered from the incident, is dancing and twirling again. Her curls DO bounce. They shine in the bright light of the store.
She's smiling and naming baby dolls. She's living and loving and breathing.
But, I was stressed, tired and preoccupied....over a grocery list? Driving home in traffic? A crying baby?
I was in a moment of time so beautiful and precious that another person would pay a lifetime to see and it passed by me without a second thought. No, I wished it away without a second care.
That crying woman put a ripple in my little life, a reminder we need to hear frequently in this loud world. Everywhere we look, we are told that our motherhood is small. Worthless. Painstaking. Annoying. An inconvenience to navigate around in the store. That woman reminded me that I am privileged to serve my children and to be with them even in the tiniest, most insignificant moments.
Parenting is hard. We are quick to say that it's worth it because we experience really amazing moments. It's as if the good makes up for the bad. Or the mundane days are washed away by the exciting milestones. After this experience, I'm reminded that we can find a way to appreciate, even delight, in the most diminutive moments of parenting.
Delight in every moment, yes, even the hard and mundane times. Someone out there would give her life to spend one minute in the hardest part of your day, if only to see a beautiful child again, hear a voice ring out, touch soft curls.
Song for a Fourth Child: