written by Mary Katherine Backstrom
A tired, new mother wears her baby through the aisles of Target, hair in a messy bun and eyes burning from sleep deprivation. She pauses briefly to pull a stylish dress from a discount rack, wondering if the flowy ruffles would conceal her post-partum pudge. “$25 is a lot of money,” she ponders aloud, placing the frock back with a frown. Then, she hears the giggles of two women. She watches as they mindlessly shop the same section with fresh makeup and smiles. Their carts are loaded up as they turn to the dressing room, hot lattes in hand. A pang of envy sneaks into her gut.
“I really miss that,” she whispers, pushing her cart toward the diaper aisle, kissing the hair of her snoozing infant.
The woman found herself walking through the sale racks, grabbing items and tossing them into the shopping cart. As grateful as she was that her best friend flew in from out of state, all she really wanted was to be home in beneath the covers. This was supposed to be an outing to “get her mind off the pain”. But everywhere she looked, there were mamas with babies or growing bellies. She took a sip of her chesnut latte and threw a beige leather purse in her cart, pushing back tears. Her hand wandered down to the place a baby once grew. Oh, how she longed for a kick in her belly, or any proof of the growing life that once existed inside. Her eyes wandered toward a tired new mama, kissing her baby’s head and strolling toward the diaper aisle.
“I really miss that,” she thinks, heading to the dressing room with her friend.
A teenager rolls her eyes and huffs loudly. “Mom, they wouldn’t sell it in the JUNIORS section if it was inappropriate for my age. Gahd, I don’t know why you are so ridiculous about this. I can’t wear anything that’s cool!” Her mother hesitantly eyes the floral halter top, inspecting it’s spaghetti straps and short-length waist. “Honey, if it was just a little bit longer…” her voice trails off as her daughter storms away. She pushes the cart after her, throwing the flowery halter into the basket. As she makes her way after the angry teen, she hears a toddler squeal with delight. She smiles and watches as the toddler’s mother lifts him out of the shopping cart and nuzzles him close for a hug.
“I really miss that,” she thinks to herself.
Toddler mama nuzzles her little man with a hug. After months of teething and sleep-deprivation, she was beginning to feel defeated. But last night Little Man slept 7 hours. Seven. Whole. Hours. She felt somewhat human after a ginormous coffee and a frantic, 2-minute shower. One good day almost wiped out the memory of 100 bad ones. Maybe, just maybe, they were turning a corner. She placed her son back in the cart with a kiss, and headed toward check-out.
“Thank God for one. good. day.” she thinks with a smile.
The little old lady with powder-gray hair fumbles for the Target dog sticker when she sees a young mom approaching. 60 years of hard work, and Miss Betsy still couldn’t find it in her heart to retire. Her joints ache from standing and scanning, but her heart finds joy in the interactions she would otherwise not receive in her quiet, dusky apartment.
She offers a receipt and a sticker to the mom with a toddler. She blows kisses to the bouncy toddler. He giggles in return.
She smiles at the woman with a full cart at checkout. “What a lovely purse you found! It will work with every season!”
She gives a knowing wink to the mother with a teenager, whose daughter has her arms crossed with a pout. (Mom decided against the floral halter, after all). The sweet old lady hands the receipt to mom, then addresses her daughter.
“Thank God for every day you have your mother. I lost mine twenty years ago, and not a day goes by when I wish I had the chance to argue with her.”
And as the teenager rolls her eyes and mumbles “yes ma’am”, Miss Betsy closes her checkout lane and clocks out for break. With tears gathering in her eyes, and memories flooding her mind, she quietly whispers:
“I really miss that.”