It’s that time again. Time for me to dust off my recurring role as the damsel in distress. I’m beginning to fear I’ve been typecast by fate. So far this blog has entertained… well, not millions, but my definitely my husband as I lock my keys in the car, get stuck in the snow and give myself a black eye, just to name a few.
I have no one to blame but myself. Or my children, and the significant sleep deficit which is definitely their fault. But what kind of Mom blames her own children for her frazzled, overwhelmed and far-too-often absent minded performance?
This one. I blame them. I love them, but I blame this crazy, relentless, exhausting life and my subsequent doziness on those adorable mini people. I don’t know who I’m going to blame when they grow up and leave me.
My latest drama begins in our local supermarket. I sped through my list as fast as humanly possible while the boy alternated between screaming at the top of his lungs (and he has some impressive pipes on him) and cheerfully pulling everything off the shelf as we rolled by. By the time I got to the checkout line I was frazzled and nearing defeat.
More than I’d like, but par for the course these days for the feeding, cleaning and diapering a family of 6, at least in our part of the world. Four of us don’t even need diapers, so that’s a huge savings right there.
Feeling a little smug about my foresight, I pulled out my newly activated credit card. My wallet was stolen last week and I’ve been slowly re-making my plastic identity. It’s one of those extra tasks which seems insurmountable in the face of our usual daily grind. But I did it. I called the number. I even signed the back.
I did not, however, take note of the new pin number which would be arriving in the mail also.
So here we are, with a fully loaded cart of groceries, a half eaten bag of fishy crackers (see above re: screaming), a grumpy three-year-old, and the Perry the Platypus sticker he just stuck on my chin. Embarrassed, but not unused to this position, I tell my story and ask them to hold my groceries until I can return with yet another new credit card waiting patiently at home to be activated.
I felt so bad for the man waiting behind me. He had a bag of oranges and a couple bananas. He was about my age, but polished, put together. The kind of guy who drives a nice car and goes to the gym a lot.
I wonder what he saw as I stood there in my second-hand boots, bags under my eyes and hair falling out of its clip. My son whining and grabbing me while sporting a wicked black eye and a runny nose. I was cringing inside. Feeling judged. Feeling humiliated.
As the checkout lady begins to wheel our cart away, he says, “Wait!”
He leans over and peers at my receipt. He pulls out his credit card. He waves his hand, like it’s no big deal.
“I’ll pay for it. Then you won’t have to come back. It’s my gift to you.”
“Uhhh… oh no, no.” I stammer. “It’s, like, $200. Really, it’s okay.”
He insists. He pays. He acts like it’s no big deal.
This was an extremely rare moment for me. I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t even know how to start. I was struck dumb. I hope I remembered to say Thank You. I hope I said it a lot.
As I packed my free groceries into the van, he began to drive away. I flagged him down, standing outside his window in the rain, so I could at least shake his hand and find out his name.
He told me that it seemed like I was having “a day,” plus having my wallet stolen and all… He said something about putting good out in the universe and it’d come back eventually. His name was Nick.
I had a lot of feelings about this. My first was pride. I didn’t want to seem pathetic (though, let’s face it, I probably was), and I could take care of it myself. My second was practical, and just a little bit mercenary. I’m going on a trip this month that falls outside our budget and we are feeling it. $188.33 is a lot of money to us. My biggest feeling, however, the one that has followed me around ever since, was bone-deep, soul shaken, faith-in-humanity-restored, just got a-hug-from-God, giddy and amazed GRATITUDE.
It’s not the $188.33. It’s not the time, hassle and embarrassment saved. It’s the unexpected, unsolicited, unassuming grace of the moment.
I’ve been tasting it ever since.
And that’s worth a whole lot more than $188.33.
So here’s me, thanking Nick. Because I needed that.