Pre-holiday shopping at the supermarket: crowded, focused, serious. Lots of fun stuff to prepare, no time for joking around.
In the midst of the crowd of goal-oriented shoppers arises a disturbingly sharp piercing cry. The noise comes from a small child sitting on the floor beneath the Frosted Flakes and Chocolate Cheerios.
Turning into Aisle 4 was a weary woman pushing a cart containing peanut butter, bread and baby. The family vignette was completed by middle child walking beside mother.
Mom doggedly pushed onward, blinders and ear plugs symbolically in place. She would complete this mission no matter what.
Baby sits peacefully in the cart, nibbling cheddar cheese Goldfish, while big sister periodically steals back to observe younger sibling. She finds Vesuvius is still erupting.
I am on a long line at the check out counter, compelled to witness the drama playing out before my unwilling eyes. If I could block out those headache inducing screams I would. I felt sorry for the miserably unhappy child, sorry for the exhausted mother, and sorry for the go-between sister.
Could I help?
I could sidle up to Miss Shrill-Voice, look her straight in the eye and say,
“You are so lucky.”
She would look at me with huge, teary eyes.
Then I’d wow her with my grandmotherly insight and understanding of childhood frustrations. I’d say, whipping out my photos,
“I have a little granddaughter. Her name is Violet,” thereby validating my status as grandmother.
“She’s too little to talk. So when she’s upset all she can do is cry. But you; you can use your words to tell mommy what you want.”
Then she would miraculously stop crying. She would be relieved to have a reasonable grownup to talk to. All would be well. Mom would return, grateful for my intervention, thankful to me for saving her frustrating morning.
BUT what if the child started screaming even louder in shock or fear when I approached her? What if protective mom charged over to the appeasement site and said,
“Who do you think you are? Why don’t you mind your own business?”
What if she accused me of being a child molester, or even worse, a kidnapper? What if a posse of shoppers rode over to protect the defenseless babe from ME? What if they called the traffic cop from outside? What if he arrested me?
“What if, what if…” Then I heard,
“May I help you?”
My reverie was broken. The long check out line had finally propelled me to the cashier, where I paid my bill and walked out of the store: all my good intentions and sage wisdom left behind.