The SOS could be heard from aisles away as I rounded the next aisle with my grocery cart. I was trying to mind my own business, but somewhere between the yogurt and the butter, I got bored. So I did what every mother does who hears that international distress signal. I put the cart in reverse and took a peek.
It was a tragic sight--one mother, two little boys, and a shopping cart loaded with groceries. The oldest boy, probably age six or so, was in deep do-do. How do I know this? His mother was leaning over him, eyes bulging from their sockets, her index finger pointed toward his nose, and words flying rapid fire from her mouth like a classroom full of fifth grade boys launching spit balls. It's amazing what one can observe in a quick peek.
Alarmed by the disaster taking place right in front of me and in such a public forum, I snapped to attention and threw myself into first gear. The bread aisle welcomed me and brought comfort to my sad heart.
I'm a mother who's lightly aged--like some cheeses--and having lived through some victories and defeats, I know the humiliation that the oldest son was experiencing was so not worth all the groceries that mother had in her cart or in mine. I contemplated abandoning my cart and racing to her rescue, but I knew instinctively that any honest attempt at throwing out a lifeline like, "Hey, I've been there...let me tell you about the time..." or "Can I help you?", would be seen as arrogant judgments from a stranger, and I didn't want to add to the stress. So I tried to mind my own business...
Well, I tried. But next thing I knew her cart was passing me on my left...blocking my view of the breads. I couldn't help but overhear the conversation:
Oldest son: "Let's get the eggs, mama."
Mother: "Eggs? Do you think you deserve to make Easter eggs after the way you've been acting?"
Oldest son: "Mama, please!!! Eggs, please!!!"
Mother: "Zip it! Just zip it!"
Now the whole time while my eyes darted between her cart and the bread, I never heard a word out of son number two, who I guessing was four. He was in his own little world, smiling and giggling, obviously the family clown and totally oblivious to the fact that the ship was sinking and he was on it. But something about "Zip it" struck his funny bone.
"Zip it. Zip it!" He laughed as he repeated it over and over looking up at his mother.
Now that made me nervous. I wanted to get his attention and sound the warning, "Honey, don't. Please stop. You're mother...she's about to blow!"
And blow she did.
"Don't you tell me to zip it!" Finger wagging in his face.
Let's just say I found some humor in that, and threw myself into second gear and high-tailed it out of there.
On the way home I thought about the day before. It was Good Friday and my daughter was going to babysit our three youngest, "the three little girls" as we affectionately call them. It was a morning out. A morning with a good friend. A time for moi'. I dressed up a little. No sweats for me. I was a mama of seven, but I wasn't going to look like it.
"Anna, you've got things covered right?" Check.
"You can reach me on my cell if you need me." Check.
"I'll be back by 11:00. " Check.
I could hear the tension mounting in the distance. Well, from the family room, not so distant.
"I did not!"
"You did too!"
"You always get to watch what you want!"
Then there was a smack of some kind. Wails followed.
"Mom, Mrs. Greene is in the driveway waiting." Anna said.
The pressure was on. The tension mounting. No one, and I mean, no one, was going to mess up my morning out. Yeah, you guessed it. I marched to the family room and let out my own SOS.
It was ugly. You could have heard a pin drop. I laid down the law, turned on my heels, and marched out the door.
Within seconds I felt awful. I'd blown it. Knew I'd blown it. But it was obvious I needed the break. So I jumped in the car and confessed to my good friend.
At breakfast, we talked about life. Parenting. Grace.
When I got home I knew what I needed to do.
"Girls, come here." They raced to see me. Actually glad to have me home.
"Girls, I'm sorry the way I yelled today. It was wrong. Will you please forgive me?"
Quick responses of grace and hugs followed. I turned to leave, my mother ear still within hearing.
One little girl said to the other. "I'm sorry about this morning."
"Yeah, I'm sorry too."