I didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but when in line at the grocery store, privacy probably shouldn’t be expected. After all, it isn’t like cell phones come with a cone of silence around them.
“I can’t hardly wait till we herd them out the door on Thursday. No, Mom, I LOVE my job. But the kids get really squirrelly once the weather gets warm. And there is so much end-of-the-year stuff to clear up. I feel like I’m just giving them all busy work to bide the time!”
She paused to unload her cart, and the youngster sitting in the cart’s seat started that unmistakable whine that all parents know so well. Yeah, the one that grates on your nerves, makes you feel imposed upon, useless, and guilty all at once. Shoving the phone in the child’s hand, she says, “Tell Grandma what you did today,” and starts to pile the produce on the conveyer belt.
Instead, the kid pushes the END button and finds a game to play on the phone.
“Jen!” her mom exclaims with loud dismay. “Did you hang up on your grandma?” Suddenly the phone is back in Mom’s hand, and soon Grandma is back on the line. “See? Even MY kid is squirrelly!” The cashier stifles a chuckle as the child mimics the mother, invisible phone in hand.
I am amused, and feeling quite sympathetic. I can remember the delightful experience that grocery shopping after work with kids in tow can be. I tend to give others the room and time they need so all the eggs, bread, children, parents, and cashiers survive the moment.
I scan other lanes for shortcuts. Nope. It is 5:30 p.m. and pretty much every line has a similar distraction.
“Oh, Mom,” the woman continues, “we were never like this when we were in school! You just do not get it . . .” I pick up a magazine, trying not to listen, somehow knowing that Grandma really does get it.
While fishing out her credit card, she drops her purse and the usual items spill around our feet like marbles on a bowling alley floor. Actually, as I reach to help pick things up, I see at least two dozen colorful marbles rolling under the candy-filled shelves—a pair of shooters, a cat’s eye, a steelie, a lip balm, hair brush, book, wallet, and bag of crackers among them. Marbles. How appropriate. How fun!
Through it all, seemingly oblivious to the long line, she continues the conversation with her mother. “No, he punched her in the nose during recess, and I had to talk to his parents and her parents and the principal for hours.” She stuffs marbles and other items back in her purse, and shoves the bread down in the grocery bag to make room for canned goods. More snippets of her conversation drift past. “And they let all the grasshoppers out in the classroom! We will be finding them for ages . . .” “The lunchroom staff was furious when they found the kids using peas as . . .” “So much gum under the table in the art room . . .” On and on it flowed, like marbles on a bowling alley floor. Oh dear. I am repeating myself.
End of the school year. Kids just GET it: There really are moments in life that should be enjoyed with abandon.
For some, one of those moments is the end of the school year. As grown-ups, we think we are immune to this rush of anticipation, the promise of change and freedom. Sometimes we get impatient with the recklessness kids exhibit. Perhaps we are just as eager, but the voices inside tell us to stifle it. We have our responsibilities, our own stressors. And, with any luck, our own way to let loose and take delight in the moment: a way to shed the tension and move on so we enjoy what comes next—perhaps by venting to one’s mom.
The gentleman behind me chuckles as we move up in line. “I thought someone was going to punch her in the nose,” he says with a twinkle in his eye. The cashier, still wearing her charming smile, says quietly, “At least she didn’t lose all of her marbles.”
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A vacation. A good babysitter. A healthy sense of humor.
Master the game of marbles.