Normally my husband picks up dog food on the way home from work. But somehow he didn't and we needed it so yesterday before dinner I decided that I would go. Our 11 year old daughter asked to tag along.
I'm giving you this terribly boring introduction because it often seems that when I find myself doing something unusual, something unusual ends up finding me. So this was unusual and yes, it became more unusual.
My enormous belly preceded me, of course, at the cash register. The cashier smiled as she scanned our purchase. "Boy, I can't wait for August...." to which I replied, with a quick glance outside at the terribly frozen, snow-covered parking lot, "Tell me about it."
"Oh, not because of that. My daughter's baby is due in August!"
"Isn't that lovely?" I thought. She was more excited about meeting her grandchild than about the summer weather! But before the happy words could find their way out of my mouth, she continued with:
"Yeah. I can't WAIT for her to go through that pain."
My face must have showed the horror that welled up so quickly in my heart because she couldn't stop.
"I mean...she did exactly what I told her not to do, and now she's pregnant at 18."
Deep breath. Forced smile.
"Well, I was born when my mother was 17," I offered, "so maybe it will all work out great!"
"The thing is...." And that's when I stopped being able to listen. It's strange how thoughts can seem to exist outside of time, like a thousand points of light, each one behind the other. From one angle it's there's only a single pin prick, but look at them from the side and a lifetime of emotions and events is all there at once.
And for me that endless row of lights included my own baby, happily unaware, safe inside his warm home. My daughter, standing beside me, hands thrust deep into the pockets of her winter coat, eyes fixed firmly on the floor. My mother, younger then than this woman's daughter is now. This woman's daughter, shouldering all that goes along with an unplanned teen pregnancy. The loneliness that must come from being treated as a Mistake Maker who deserves to be punished with physical pain even after choosing life for her unborn baby.
I knew as we trudged out to the van that I should find a way to pray for that cashier, but at the time I could only manage prayers for her daughter. Prayers that between now and August, the edge of fear and anger that her mother is feeling now is dulled, softened, so she can endure labor feeling warmth and love and not vindictive satisfaction.
Today we went to the grocery store, the six of us home-stayers plus the burgeoning belly. While we were in the checkout line Paul told me he needed a tissues. "So do I, buddy...." I said as I fumbled through my purse to no avail. And then the girl behind me opened up a box of kleenex that she was about to buy, smiled, and handed some to me and to my little boy. She had a crocheted hat on and burgundy Ugg boots. I wanted to hug her.
It was such a small gesture, so unabashedly kind. Her eyes sparkled. When I said "Thank you so much!" she responded "Yeah, for sure!"
There was a sweetness in the air.
And now I know what to pray for the lady at the farm supply store. I pray she finds kindness. That someone is kind to her and it warms her heart. That the kindness she sees multiplies inside her so she can start sharing that same kindness with others. I pray she finds her own kleenex lady and she hugs her daughter and she tells her everything is going to be okay.