I could feel the malicious glares on me as the screaming became to increase. I have a full cart of groceries and am currently stopped in front of a four-year old that is just not having a good day. Her brown curls shake as she throws herself onto the ground and wails as loudly as she can. Jolie didn’t sleep at all last night – Tony used to put her to bed and she hadn’t adjusted to it just being me at home even though he’d left almost a year ago. All she wants was a box of chocolates, but money was so tight right now that I can’t afford to splurge even $4 for her and I’m not in the habit of caving to her moods.
“Jolie, stop. You don’t need the chocolate and Mommy can’t afford to get it. Maybe we can come back tomorrow for it okay hunny?” I know that trying to soothe her will be nearly impossible, but I have to try to get her tantrum under control. I still haven’t gotten used to being a single parent and having so many strangers’ eyes on me seems to remind me that I am in this alone. I don’t have anyone here to help me calm her down or check out the groceries. It is up to me to work to pay the bills and to put her to bed at night. I hae never been so thankful to live close to my parents until I woke up alone one morning to a note that said – I can’t do this anymore. I know I’m a coward, but I just can’t. I’m not in love with you. Will send money for Jolie. ~ tony
I had woken up that day to Jolie wailing from her crib and knew instantly that something was wrong. I was alone. Tony was always there beside me in the mornings; he worked from home so he’d often just wait until I got up to start the day. But he wasn’t there, his things were gone, and our baby girl was screaming in the other room.
Things hadn’t changed much from that day except that now Jolie spent the afternoons after kindergarten at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. I worked until 6 and went there for dinner before going home to have bit of time with her before I tried to settle her down to sleep. She started acting up about two days after Tony left, when she finally realized he wasn’t going to be there. Things had gotten impossibly hard for me, but we were managing. Things would get better when I got a promotion at work.
But until then, here I am in the grocery aisle with a screaming child on the floor in front of me. Two rowdy teenagers are whipping around in a shopping cart and barreling down the aisles – I don’t even see them before I notice they are barreling directly into my cart and rushing off as my groceries sprawl out all over the floor. Now I have a floor full of groceries AND a screaming child.
I grab my cart and pull it onto its wheels, then I hurriedly grab for my food that has bounced in every possible direction. I can feel the stares growing more intense. I can feel tears welling up in my eyes and my breathing starting to speed up. I’m so focused on keeping myself together that I barely realize other hands picking up my things and putting them into my cart. I avoid looking up and reach for Jolie as she seems to be fully terrified from the world crashing down around her. I gather her up in my arms and lift her up to put her into the cart just as the kind stranger picks up my last item from the floor.
Frazzled and dazed I finally lift my face to meet their eyes and I’m deeply struck at the warmth and hope I see within those dark brown eyes. It’s like they beckon out all the things inside of me.
“Can I help you with anything, Miss?” His deep and smooth voice asks me a question I have too many answers for. So instead of speaking I do the only other thing I can at the moment – I cry. Tears of fear, loneliness, exhaustion, despair, confusion, embarrassment. All the things I’ve kept inside for the last ten months come spilling out to this kind stranger.
It takes me a minute to regain my composure slightly and I mumble out an apology before turning and leaving the store. I escape to my car and get Jolie buckled in before I collapse into the driver’s seat and let the tears continue to fall. What was it in that man who brought all this out? I thought I had this in check.
As I’m blubbering in the parking lot of Save-On-Foods, completely ignoring the stares of strangers walking by, I get the scare of my life when I hear a tap on the window. I jump and see the man from inside pushing a cart full of groceries in bags. I roll down the window as I try to sniffle in my tears.
“I figured you needed these. Pop your trunk and I’ll load them in for you.” Kindness radiates from him and I can’t help but feel ridiculously grateful. He unloads the groceries into my car before he walks back up to my window.
“My name is Colby, please let me know if I can help in any way.” He hands me a small piece of paper with a phone number written on it. I don’t know if I should be angry or thankful.
“And you know, maybe that help could be fixing your oven…Or maybe it could be dinner.” His eyes have a sparkle to them even as he looks down at his shoes.
I’m stunned for a moment as I realize that, despite seeing me as a total wreck, he wants to go for dinner. For some reason that I can’t understand, I trust this man and his deep brown eyes and equally deep voice. What the heck! Dinner could be what I need to catch my breath…And my oven actually does need fixing.
“What about both?”