On Sunday mornings, some people go to church. I go to the grocery store.
The boys take turns coming along, clamoring for the chance to spend some time alone with me – and for the chance to get a free cookie from the ladies behind the bakery counter.
This Sunday morning, my two year old joined me. After gathering my coupons and grocery bags and buckling him into his carseat, we headed for the store. The day that had started out hazy and unseasonably hot turned angry as we drove the short distance to the store. The skies opened just as we were dashing through the parking lot.
Soggy, frustrated (I dried my hair this morning with a round brush and now I look like a wet dog!), trying to decipher the smudged writing on my list, I was decidedly grumpy by the time we reached the dairy section. My impatience only grew as I looked for Little Brother’s favorite yogurt, nowhere to be found. A friendly voice called my name just then and I rearranged my face into a smile before looking up and into the eyes of an acquaintance from my old book club.
A fellow mom of three, she is the kind of woman I admire: kind, funny, patient, ready to play Legos or tennis or read for hours. I hadn’t seen her in a long time, but was glad to find her this morning – a bit of sunshine among the clouds.
She caught me up on her boys. One was getting ready for spring Little League, but couldn’t manage to connect bat with ball. Another was waking up with crusty eyes due to food allergies. Her eldest was having trouble with an older kid on the bus. Although she only spoke for a minute, I could hear the exhaustion in her voice, how badly she wanted to help her kids and how hard it was for her to feel like she couldn’t.
“And how about you guys?” she asked. “How’s it going?”
Little Brother answered for me then, a grin stretching across his face, the chocolate from his cookie a clown’s make-up around his lips: “We just ran through a puddle and got all wet!”
If I had answered before him, I might have told her that Baby Sister had been waking up way too early for the past few weeks and that she doesn’t really eat anything except for Cheerios, that the boys are driving me nuts with their constant wrestling, that I haven’t had enough time to write. That it was pouring rain when we were running into the store and now I’m steaming inside my slicker.
But I didn’t. Instead I smiled at him and at her and said, “We’re great.”
And then I offered up a silent prayer of thanks, so brief it didn’t register until later. For this moment of parenting, when problems are confined to the four walls of our house and the puddles outside them. For tiredness that comes from too many readings of Knuffle Bunny and too many games of Nerf basketball. For bruises that can be cured with a hug.
Because I suspect that it’s never going to get any easier than this moment, right now.
The storm burst was over by the time I wheeled our full shopping cart into the parking lot. I unloaded our bags into the trunk, then ferried Little Brother over to the cart corral. A giant puddle pooled in the space between the corral and our car. We could have gone the long way around, but we were a few minutes from home, where bathtubs and dry socks and the rest of our family were waiting for us.
So we held hands. And we jumped right in.