***Monday, after dropping off our mini-van at the body shop for some repair work due to a parking lot dent that no one claimed responsibility for, we fit four car seats in a tan courtesy-rental Ford Taurus (which one son calls the "Ford Tortoise," and another nicknamed the "Tan-tan-tangerina") and stopped quickly at the grocery store on the way home. As any mom knows, a "quick" trip with kids, just to get a few things for dinner, is really never quick. (One of my friends has a seven-minute guideline that I think is great: if you're taking your crew in a store, she aims to be in and out in seven minutes).
One of the first displays was the fireworks--which aren't really fireworks in our county, but rather, popping things that release tons of tiny bits of paper. Tried it once. Never again. Yet, my sons yearned for them throughout the store. It went something like this,
"Mom, please? I'll use my own money. I'll pay you back at home."Finally, the "fire"-works were put back. Except one son opened a package and tried to stuff two poppers down his pants. He was caught (by his brother, who told me), corrected, and apologized to an assistant store manager.
"Mom, I promise I'll do all my chores for a whole week. Could I get them, then?"
"Mom, I promise I'll pick up all the paper that comes out. Can I please get them?"
"No, put them back."
"Do you think Dad would get them for me?"
As I was fielding fireworks questions, one son said, "Mom, I have to go poo-". (I am trying to train them to simply announce that they need to use the bathroom--not announce what they need to do in it!). Off to the family restroom we went, where I waited outside the door with the baby asleep in her carseat in the cart, and where one son kept running over to drool at the fireworks display.
"Are you done yet?"Helped him, washed hands, and off we went...or so I thought.
"Nope." (Repeat several times).
"Mom, I'm done!"
Another son exclaimed, "Mom, I have to go poo- too!" Repeat same scenario.
Made it out of the store without much further fanfare.
That evening, after the kids were in bed and my husband was home, I headed to another store. In the check-out lane, a woman in her sixties, I'd say, wearing a long, gray wool coat (even though it was in the 90s outside) and best fitting the description of the witch in Looney Tunes but minus the green face and pointy nose, came right up to me, got a foot from my face, pointed her finger at me and said,
"If you're related to Fred and Jerry, you tell them..."
"Mam," I interrupted, "I have no idea who you're talking about. I don't know those people."
Unfazed, she continued in a worked-up voice,
"You tell them they're exiled! Exiled! You all need to get the [expletive] out of town--every last one of you. I don't want anything to do with anyone of you." (and on and on she went, while I politely reasserted she had the wrong person and then began to tune her out).
As she decided maybe I didn't know Fred or Jerry after all and started to walk back to her check-out lane, she turned, and very loudly for all the other customers to hear, shouted, "Well, your NOSE JOB looks real good, by the way."
I just started laughing and said, "I've never had plastic surgery in my life. This is the same nose I was born with, thanks!"
What an event... The cashier next to my lane was quite upset about the ordeal and wanted to reassure me that Albertson's protects its customers. She walked me out to my vehicle. I called the manager to talk to him the next day about it, because if a customer is that unstable, who knows what she might do to someone else?
At home, after unloading groceries, I pondered through what all had happened. It was somewhat unsettling. And who were Fred and Jerry, and why was she so upset at them? Was she schizophrenic, and they were imaginary? Was she under the influence of something? Were they real people who had hurt her terribly?
I don't know.
But I did know that, however uncomfortable I felt, she went home and probably felt worse. It seems like she battles some real problems. Big problems. I wondered why her path crossed mine and why she unloaded on me like that.
Then it hit me--
Could it be I was supposed to pray for her? Could it be I was the only one in this crazy circle of Fred and Jerry (and whoever else was exiled?) that would actually care about her spiritual condition and pray for her?
So often, whether it's training our children and correcting them as they do wrong, or meeting messed-up people, rather than feeling wronged by them, what if we took them to the throne of grace, instead? It's there we all find mercy and receive grace to help in our time of need.
Women Living Well