Friday, July 17, 2009

Flashback Friday: Did You See Me Today?

Have you ever written a post that just sticks with you? This post that I'm reprinting for Flashback Friday - hosted by Scary Mommy - is one of my favorites.

I re-read it and I can still perfectly picture that day in my head. Hope you enjoy it!

Did you see me today?

I went to Kroger's today with my 4 kids. This is not such an unusual event. I was just wondering if you saw me there...

Were you the twenty-something kid behind the counter serving the Chinese food? You looked even more tired than me. I was the one holding the sleeping baby in my arms while one child kept asking me if he could ride in the cart. Oh and yes he is 7. The older girl felt very droopy and wasn't hungry at all, except for something we couldn't eat right away like an apple or grapes. You may have heard me sigh at her and just say, "Find somthing else, something EASIER!" Did you see my younger son? He's the one who kept saying, "No, I want popcorn chicken. No, wait, a chicken leg. No, a corn dog. No, a corn dog AND a chicken leg. No, popcorn chicken and one chicken leg." You showed me that there weren't any more popcorn chicken and no, you wouldn't be making any more. So he had to start all over again. "One chicken leg. No, two chicken legs. No....." You might have noticed that I tried to get out my money to pay you for the food I had ordered, which caused my baby to wake up. Sorry for the sour look on my face when you told me, "No our cash register isn't working."

Were you the fancy dressed-up lady in a beautiful black sparkly dress with cute peep-toe heeled sandals? I wondered where you came from, or where you might be going. It might have looked like I was staring at you but really I was just envying you. I was the lady with a shirt that had a couple of stains on it. I had my hair in a clip but the sides were falling down. I was probably pretty sweaty since it's over 100 degrees here today. You looked so nice that I wondered when was the last time I dressed up for anything? Even going to church, I throw on a dress and run a comb through my tangled wavy hair, then move on to dressing kids, feeding the baby, getting my tithe envelope, etc etc. Anyway, I noticed how you lingered at the Special K, deciding if you wanted it plain or with berries. You took your time and checked prices. I got lost in the moment, trying to remember a time when I went to the store and did anything other than simply grab the closest thing to arm-level. Or anything generic. Or anything with a big red CLEARANCE tag.

Were you the older gentleman at the meat counter who helped me find the pork tenderloin that's on sale? I was the woman pushing the cart with the very happy, but very loud baby in the basket. She kept yelling "AAAHHHHH" right into my face. My two sons were the ones who were doing the spin-around karate kicks. Then, when I told them to settle down, my daughter decided to give the younger boy a piggy-back ride. Well, you didn't seem to mind anyway. So when I asked where the tenderloin was, and I pointed to it in the ad, you seemed very amused and told me, "Well it's right here in front of you here, ma'am." I hope I didn't look too stupid to you because I sure felt it.

Could you have been the grocery checker, who was very polite to me? I asked you if the "Mix and Match" items could be items from various price categories and you were so nice to call someone named KayKay to check. I hope I didn't look too angry or disappointed when you told me no, they all had to be from one price category and I'd have to buy 10 of them. Sorry I made you take all those items out of my cart. It would have been a good deal. And I hope I didn't come across too brusk or rude when I returned to your line after checking at customer service, only to find out that the items CAN be from different price categories. I was praying you had not put my items back on the shelf, but.... I hope I didn't make you feel too uncomfortable when I began to cry a little bit after finding out that the items had been put back. See, I didn't even remember which items I had picked up. After composing myself, though, I was able to get everything together and you checked me out again. You were SO polite. I'm glad I held my temper because if I hadn't I would have gone all postal on your ass and you really wouldn't have deserved it. Then as I left, you and the bagger-girl both told me to have a nice day and I'm sure you meant it but I just kinda mumbled "yeah" and walked on. Sorry about that.

Were you the guy at the customer service counter who helped me with my "mix and match" question? You were really helpful. Hope I didn't look at you too exasperated. And, I'm so sorry that my kids were messing with the lottery machine. Please don't report me to Child Protective Services for getting their attention by grabbing them on the ear and pulling them in the direction of our shopping cart. You probably heard them howling but as you may have noticed I didn't let up. Instead, I just told them that they should've come the first two times I called their names. I don't know if you're the only person who saw me or not.

And I don't know for sure, but I really think you might have been the lady in the parking lot. I saw you coming up the row carrying your eco-friendly reusable grocery bags. You looked about my mom's age but you were dressed really nice. I sure liked your smile. I quickly forgot about it, though, as I put my kids in the car and buckled the baby in securely. I continued to give the kids a guilt trip about their behavior in the grocery store. I told them how embarassed I was, and how did they think that felt? Then I caught sight of you through the open back door of my van. You asked me, "Honey, can I take your empty cart for you?" I answered "Sure, go ahead. Thanks a lot." And you said, "You look like you could use a hand." You had such a warm smile and a knowing look in your eye. I could tell you weren't judging me or mentally scolding me. You were thinking, yeah, I've been there.

I don't know if I saw you today or not, since everything in the blog world is so anonymous. But would you have known me if you saw me? Maybe. I hope that the reality of who I am is not as harsh as my perception of who I am. But I fear that I am exactly what people see. That the inside me is too close to the outside me. I'd like to believe I have some inner softness, some peace at the core of my being. I think my peace has been drained out of me like a flower pot with a hole at the bottom. I'm praying for peace. Patience. Love. Tolerance. And forgiveness.

(originally posted July 25, 2008)

6 comments:

Jennifer said...

Excellent post. I feel that way all the time. I'll catch myself yelling or saying something I swore (before kids) I would never say and then it hits me.... OMG. I just did that. Why? Why can't I be more patient, more understanding, more... better?

Parenting is hard.

Anna See said...

:) Loved this both times. Thanks!

Wendy said...

What a sweet post. It made me tear up.

If I saw a parent call her kiddo two times & then get him by the ear, I would laugh & be glad. Because, thank you Lord, you aren't angrily counting over & over while the kid's self-esteem drops to dirt level and he loses all motivation to ever try to please you.

I can't think of any pleasure in life that is so intensely sweet as grocery shopping alone after several years of doing what you just described. Not even really good sex can match the heaven that is strolling through the grocery store unmolested for the first time in recent memory.

Moms who have husbands whose schedules allow them this joy should be on their knees thanking them, literally.

Aleta said...

I can't explain it, but this post actually made me want to cry. This was beautiful.

Christine said...

I love your post. I swear you should sometimes see the looks I get! I am so glad to not be the only one

Carrie Thompson said...

Gretchen,

I love your posts...

I think we might have been mirror imaging that day?

Me