Today for the first time ever I braved the grocery store with two kids in tow. Most weeks I wait until Shawn is home so that I can go out alone, but for whatever reason the errand kept getting pushed further and further back until our refrigerator looked like this:
I'm sure Shawn wonders why I'd rather let our refrigerator become almost naked before being willing to take the girls with me during the day. Well, after eating a full but sad breakfast and receiving a few requests from Kate that I couldn't fulfill, ("Ahgurt, prease!" "Strawbries, prease!" "Cheese, prease!") I decided to cowboy up, and off we went.
While perusing the produce, I noticed an elderly couple working their way through the options. The woman looked over at Kate and Louisa several times, and did so in such earnest that I finally stopped to ask her if she'd like to see the girls. At first she said nothing, but just paused. So I offered her their names. Then, apparently anxious to connect over what had been the joy of her life, she began. "It looks like you have your hands full. But they're a treasure. They're worth it. I had six. He didn't want that many," she said gesturing toward her husband and lowering her voice slightly. "But I took as many as I could get. I was home anyway!" she added in explanation. I expressed my admiration for such a feat and then asked if her kids lived nearby. "Yes. But they're busy," she said giving her hand a waive as if to dismiss her yearning. Our conversation came to a quick close as she wished me well in my motherhood, and I proceeded to the deli.
I kept thinking about this woman who was unlikely to have more than another ten years remaining, trying to imagine myself at her stage in life, children grown, grandchildren growing. I wondered what she must think about when she sees young mothers, what feelings she might like to convey but chooses to conceal. I knew she could have talked for days, but chose to send me off quickly simply to be polite. As my thoughts tugged back and forth between the woman and the list in my hand, I intermittently had to soothe a sleepy Louisa and coax an antsy Kate back into a sitting position. "Please don't judge me," I half-joked to a couple of mothers nearby as I opened a not-yet-paid-for granola bar and handed it to Kate. "I've done much worse," one of the mothers assured.
Finally in the last aisle, as I loaded an oversized pack of paper towels, I examined my girls. Louisa was pressed against me in the carrier, sucking away on her pacifier and looking up at me contentedly (for now), while Kate worked on her treat, legs swinging all the while in an attempt to convince herself she was having fun. Such unnoteworthy behaviors. But my emotions swelled momentarily as I considered how lucky I was to be mother to these little souls.
And then... it was time to get back in the car. And Kate decided she wanted to be strapped into her car seat about as much as she wanted each hair plucked individually from her head. Truly, I worried that passers-by might think I was injuring my child, she was that upset. There was no reaching her, though I tried desperately for what felt like an eternity. THIS is why, Shawn. This right here is why!
Somehow, we made it home, and she rested her tired eyes for a moment while I finished unloading the car and tended to Lou.