She was probably 15-20 years my senior, with bright eyes and her long brown hair, half pulled back and half resting gently on her standard navy blue shirt and coordinating vest.
She was still helping the customers in front of us when it happened–my antsy five-year-old, who had earlier decided to don gym shorts and cowboy boots, accidentally stepped backward–right on top of my seven-year-old’s sandal-clad foot.
The scream was ear-piercing.
We had already been in the store too long after spending far too long at our previous errand stop. The boys were tired and so was I. And when the wailing persisted for several minutes, I’m sure everyone else’s ears were tired, too. I tried to calm my big boy down without much luck, and the whole situation was so traumatic that the five-year-old started crying because he was so sorry that he had apparently hurt his brother so badly.
It was a meltdown. I looked up at the cashier and said something about missing nap time…not that my boys take naps anymore, but the downtime would have been good for them.
The boys were fairly well calmed down by the time the cashier started ringing up our order.
“I miss shopping with my boys,” she said with a warm smile. “They’re grown and moved away and both married now.”
I paused a moment to consider her words (trying to decide if she’s crazy) before asking, “How old are they now?”
“They’re 24 and 26.”
Two years apart. Just like mine.
“What I wouldn’t give to have them with me again–even on the rough days. I just miss having them with me. And tucking them in at night. You know, all those special times together that you don’t think about much until they’ve grown up and you don’t have them around all the time anymore.”
I don’t usually handle other people’s sentimentality that well, but hers, in this moment, was a gift from God–a redirection of my heart away from the frenetic and frustrated mode that I was in to see the blessing it is simply to have my children near–with the sobering reminder that that nearness won’t last forever.
But she didn’t just make me see. She made me feel.
I think that’s why other people’s emotional moments make me uncomfortable. It forces me to feel something that I’m not sure I’m ready to deal with (because, to be honest, my own emotional moments make me uncomfortable).
But sometimes that can be a very good thing. I may have been most comfortable feeling embarrassment or frustration in that check out line, but she made me feel affection for my kids, turning what could have been a nosedive in my attitude into a total rebound.
“Thank you for sharing that,” I expressed before pushing the cart way, “especially in the midst of a minor meltdown.”
She may not have realized it, but she changed the tone of the rest of our busy afternoon with her kind words and heart-felt nostalgia. This was a little bit of Titus 2 in action, friends. At Walmart.
“Love those boys, mama,” she had communicated in no uncertain terms. “Love them well–even when it’s tough. You will miss them someday.”