So we just pulled in, I handed Roman the cart-quarter, and I reviewed our plan of action with the boys: be good helpers, walk beside the cart, please don't ask for things that aren't on our grocery list. And for the love of all that is good, PLEASE DON'T RUN. And between there and the time he gets unbuckled, he lost the quarter.
Cue Lady Awesome.
She sees that Roman is distraught as I pull out our cart, and she smiles at me saying, "If it's okay with you, mama, I'd love if he got my cart out..." Shh! Lady, I'm teaching a lesson here. "...And it's been a long time since I've had little hands to help me with my chores." Dang it. So you want to bring joy to a sad little kid while reminiscing your days gone by, and I'm going to keep you from that privilege? Okay, fine. We'll teach the lesson of manners and thank yous today instead.
Lady gives quarter to kid. Kid gets cart. Kid smiles. Mother reminds kid of manners. Kid says "thank you." Into the store we all go.
Five seconds later, I have said "no" to at least five things, and Liam is in a dead sprint down aisle one.
So I take a deep breath, and in the calmest voice I can muster, (Because kids are kind of like animals in that way. When you're angry and just need to get your hands on the little buggers, you have to let the pretend-sugar ooze from your voice in order to override the common sense that is screaming in their head, telling them to flee from danger and run for their lives!) I gather them quickly to my side. And there, kneeling on the floor on the right side of aisle one, and four feet into the door, we review our rules for the grocery store that day.
Lady Awesome is now reaching for eggs as Liam grabs the milk and lugs it over, met by my celebration and encouragement. Meanwhile, Roman is giving himself props for getting the mayo into the cart like I had asked him. She leans over to me and quietly says, "Keep going, mama. I know it's hard when the days are long and it's inconvenient, but putting in the time now will make things so much better when they're grown. Remember, you're building helpers." I glance over through my tear-brimmed eyes to see her two teenage daughters standing with her cart.
Grateful, I utter some sort of inadequate expression of thanks and offer a trademark crooked smile.
It is some time later, around the cheese case, that we meet again. She approaches me and, in a hushed voice, explains that she and her daughters are buying some oyster crackers to feed the seagulls that are gathered in the parking lot outside. And, if I'm okay with it, would my boys and I like to join? Of course we do. We agree to meet over by the birds after putting our groceries into our separate cars, and she hands my boys the sacred bag of crackers to hold and bring over.
So I have the boys standing in the back of our SUV while I load the groceries from cart to car and barely finish explaining "Okay, boys, stay right there. I'm just running the cart over to the return and then we'll head over. Don't push buttons and don't hop out." And there, coming up to my right shoulder, is her oldest daughter. She hands me a quarter back and says, "I'll take your cart back for you."
Stunned. I am stunned. As if this lady hasn't already been kind enough, she has thought of every step I have to organize to make this happen.
Some people really know how to love on other people.
It is among the flock of seagulls that we all meet up, passing the bag back and forth while making small talk with each other. We throw our crackers high in to the air and out in front of us, occasionally taking pause to laugh at small boys who prefer to eat many of the crackers that we expected would be in bird bellies. And we continue the dance until the bag is filled only with crumbs.
We exchange the expected pleasantries, me making sure my boys each look them in the eyes and say "thank you" and myself explaining how kind and thoughtful they were. And how much that made my day. She smiles and says, "I just really love when I see a mom with young children who is taking the time to do things the hard way- the right way. We are all in such a hurry these days, that we miss the big stuff. You're doing a great job, Mama. You need to know that."
And it was there in the Aldi parking lot that I cried.