The Crazy Lady At The Check-out
If I Knew Then What I Know Now ...
Standing in line at the check-out, a ‘lady of a certain age’ stood by smiling softly, her head tilted slightly, her eyes lit with joy. She watched silently as my 2 year old continued to squawk and squirm in her seat, her obvious agitation growing along with my own. My 5 year old asking if she could have just about everything she laid her eyes on, then complaining loudly about what a ‘mean mum’ I was and how starving she was. She ensured that everyone in the store could hear her.
So far it had been a hellish shopping trip.
We’d been up and down all the previous night and had hardly slept a full hour in the last 24. If the cupboards hadn’t been so empty I’d have stayed home today, but here we were trudging our way through aisle after aisle.
I felt grumpy, sad, tired and a total failure as a mother. The lady just kept watching and I started to feel more and more self-conscious by the moment and didn’t appreciate the on-going (and growing) scrutiny from the older lady standing off to the side.
My 5 year old began stating repeatedly (loud and clear) that she needed to go to the bathroom, and as the long line of groceries slowly went from belt to bag, I wished I was anywhere but there.
Seeing her big sister in distress my little one began wailing, testing out the strength of her lungs and pitch of her voice. (Siren-Sarah we called her ...) I could feel the tears of frustration and self-pity well up while everyone in the store (it seemed) openly stared in judgment.
The older woman continued to smile, then glided towards me as I loaded my groceries into the trolley, my ordeal almost other – children still wailing aimlessly.
“These are the BEST times you know” the lady said, her earnest expression one of enthusiasm and certainty.
I just looked at her, eyes agog, mouth open. She was speaking right to me, but I looked over my shoulder nonetheless just to check to make sure she wasn’t actually addressing someone behind me.
She stifled a chuckle and said again, “These really are the best times ... it may not feel that way right now, but believe me, they are. You’ll see.”
I understood totally at that very moment and it all became so very clear and obvious.
The woman was insane - a total nutter.
No doubt about it.
Today, all these years later, I was the lady of a certain age who stood by quietly smiling to myself as a flustered young mother manouvered herself and her two little ones up and down the supermarket aisles; the youngest grizzling loudly and continuously whilst the eldest ran around grabbing items off shelves and dropping them unceremoniously into the poor mother’s trolley, much to her growing annoyance.
At a check-out further along her kids upped the ante, both of them drawing attention and disturbing the peace ... the young mother red in the face and almost on the verge of tears. People were looking and she knew it. I’m sure she was wishing the floor would open up and swallow her whole.
I observed from afar and smiled to myself, thinking back to my own child-rearing experiences many, many moons ago. I had to stop myself from going over and telling the young mother that these really were the best of times – just as I’d been told all those years ago - but I was sure she wouldn’t want to hear it or believe it - she’d probably think I was just some crazy lady anyway.
* The moral of the story - Cherish every moment you have with your children – the good, the bad and the gruesome – because they grow up all too quickly.