The theme was people making 180-degree turns in their lives and I was completely taken with this particular story about the author of “The Education of Little Tree.” I was vaguely aware that I was no longer in my car and that I was walking into the grocery store.
I’ve never left headphones on in public, but my time to listen is so limited that I decide to shop and indulge in “This American Life” at the same time. I pull out my grocery list and half shop, half listen. I shuffle around the store with my head down, not making eye contact, grabbing what I need.
At some point I look up to see a teenage boy doing the same thing.
Then I start looking around.
The store is really crowded. The aisles are jammed with carts and people. United in our efforts to get food, yet so separate and isolated.
Our own little islands.
There is a line at the registers. I pick the shortest and file in. A mom in front of me is loading her food onto the counter as her little boy, maybe 2, starts wailing and thrashing on the floor.
Taking off my headphones, I try to get his attention. His eyes are shut tight in the way little ones get when they are truly frustrated and upset.
“Moooommmmyyyy” he is wailing. “Mooommmmmmmm!”
She doesn’t look down. I recognize that look on her face. She is just trying to get through the day.
The boy finally looks my way and I smile as big as I can.
“Hi,” I whisper. “Are you OK?”
He blinks at me from behind his moms’ legs and stops crying. He clearly is not sure what to make of me.
“I’m so done with this store too,” I say.
He blinks again.
“It’s too loud in here, huh? Good thing you’re almost done.”
This time he smiles a little and then moves more behind his mom.
They finish paying and his mom lifts him into the cart. He gives me a little wave as they disappear out the door.
“Hi,” I say to the cashier.
She looks flustered. The lines are long and it has clearly been a tough morning.
“Crazy today, huh?” I say.
“Yep,” she replies without looking up.
I notice how beautiful her hair is and how a few little curls have escaped and circle around her face. A bright blue star tattoo with an outline of red is on her collarbone, just barely visible.
“Beautiful tattoo,” I say.
She stops moving and looks at me for the first time.
“Thanks, it’s in remembrance of my father who died of cancer last year,” she says with a big smile. “He had one just like it.”
She continues to scan my groceries and we chat a bit more. The barrier between us falls a little and it makes me happy.
“Have a great day,” she says as I walk away.
“You too. Thanks for helping me today.”
This is the third week of summer and the first chance I’ve had to sit and write.
Waves of emotions, memories and movement are sweeping me forward each day.
Unorganized and floundering, I’m often in survival mode.
I’m feeling so much responsibility and pressure to provide experiences and joy for my children.
I’m missing it.
I’m not taking the moments to reflect.
There is no space to breathe.
My girl is seven now and she is swimming underwater.
My boy is devouring books and experiencing the frustration of learning an instrument.
My summer daughter is here and she’s schooling me on all things teen girls love, including reading and seeing “A Fault in Our Stars.”
It’s all so much and it’s just beginning.
We have lots on the horizon; camping, hiking, day trips, rafting and fun with friends.
My tendency is to always be looking forward and planning or looking inward and analyzing.
Yet, the schedule and rhythm I planned is not working and I’m forgetting things. I’ve let people down and I’ve been feeding my kids crap.
“Live in the moment.”
I’ve always hated that phrase because it’s so elusive to me. Children can do this because they are not responsible. They don’t have to figure in things like nutrition, sleep and finances. They can simply move from one experience to another.
The madness of summer is here and it’s time I surrender if I plan to survive.
Summer will continue to move forward. I can either let go and enjoy the ride, or stay stuck in regret and chaos.
The power is in my hands.