It will be a quick trip to the grocery store, I think. I’ve got time before dinner. I’ll pick up a few essentials and be on my way. I peek over the top of the stroller and watch the little guy munching contently on a snack. Perfect.
Milk — check. Crackers — check. Tomatoes — he looks over the pile and yells “Peek-a-Boo!” I smile and watch him befriend a stranger on the other side of the tomato pyramid. A few more rounds of the game, and we continue along to pick up some bread. I keep a watch on him to make sure he’s doing alright.
The line is long, and I know I’m testing his patience. I sing songs, but he isn’t interested. His whines finally transform into screams. We’re almost done, honey. Just a few more minutes and we’ll be on our way home. I look around. The store is far too crowded this Friday evening for me to let him walk around. Just a few minutes.
And, something projectile follows.
I pull the stroller to the side and take care of the soiled sweatshirt. He continues to cry. I am so tired that I want to join him. Let’s put our jacket on and go outside. It’s too cold to go out without a jacket, sweetheart. Maybe we’ll see some doggies on the way home. He fights back and is inconsolable. He is frustrated with my pleas and pulls at the boxes we are parked beside. I watch in utter horror as the 10-foot chip bag tower tumbles to the ground.
THIS IS NOT HAPPENING.
Suddenly, it’s over. Just like that.
His sobs are replaced with giggles, and he shrieks with excitement not anger. I am confused and almost startled with this unpredictable turn of events. I look over my shoulder and see the Safeway cashier jump out from behind the counter, eyes wide, wearing a silly grin, and hands in the air. There are at least ten customers in his line, not one of them angry or upset with his unusual behavior. In fact, two of them sacrifice their spot in the lineup to help me re-stack the chip bag tower.
The cashier continues to entertain my son as I slip on his jacket, and he quickly scans the four items in my basket. I look back and notice that no one is muttering under their breath because I’m being given special treatment by this cashier. As I stick the items in my stroller, he offers some stickers to my little boy. He beams with excitement. The stickers say Thank you. I swallow a lump in my throat. I can’t cry. Not here. I fight back the tears with a smile. I mouth the words Thank You to him because I know if I try to summon a voice, I will begin to cry.
I walk out of the store in amazement. Amazed at how quickly things went from awesome to awful. Amazed at how quickly they went back to awesome. Motherhood has been a whirlwind, I tell everyone. But, this — what happened today — was something that gives the term whirlwind an entirely different definition.
I am most amazed at the cashier. He could have responded in disgust, in frustration, or as I would expect, he could have chosen to not respond at all to the horrific scene that was unfolding before his very eyes. But, instead he chose to help a flustered, overwhelmed, and exhausted mama. There isn’t a Thank You sticker big enough to express my gratitude towards that man.
As much as I strive to do things independently, today I am reminded that it does take a village to raise a child. I have been blessed to have found myself in a village full of loving people who treat my son no less than their own. And, as I witnessed today, even the strangers in my village lend a hand when I need it the most. For that, I am ever so thankful.