We had the most wonderful encounter last night. I don't normally take the kids shopping because it is easier for Nick to pick up the groceries on his way home from work. But we were in town yesterday and decided to stop by "Kloger" (as Mimi calls it) in advance of the coming storms. (I love Kroger; and I'm sad that they have a bad reputation as an employer).
Maximus and Minimus had the child-sized carts and were racing up and down the aisles getting watermelon, peanut butter, and taco shells. I was pushing Mimi and Elly in the cart with the race car on it, and dragging the stroller behind me with the twins. It was also after eight on a Thursday night, so the store was blessedly empty.
We turned down the frozen foods aisle and there was an elder gentleman about half-way down. He took in the older children and turned to me with the biggest grin on his face, and held up four fingers to ask if they were all mine. I smiled and indicated the stroller behind me. He gave a surprised look and then smiled even bigger as he held up a fifth finger. I ducked my head and laughed as I waited for him to come around so he could see inside the stroller.
It was one of those times that I always scoff at when I read it in books; it seems like it's not possible. You know the kind I'm talking about, the character has the worst day possible, and then it gets worse. I always think, "How can it get more bad when it's already at the 'worst possible'?" But it's true. Except this was the opposite. This gentleman started with the biggest grin, and then was surprised and even more happy when he thought we had one more child than he'd guessed. But then he saw the twins and we both doubled over laughing.
He didn't say much, just asked if they were both boys and then said he'd lost his twin this year; she had been sick. I thought about making the usual sympathetic reply about how that must have been hard, but the look on his face made me stop. He missed her, but he was not sad. In fact, his face was the type that it's hard to imagine he could even pull his muscles into a sad expression. A grin and crinkles around his sparkling eyes was as natural to his face (and probably his personality) as the sun in the sky. I could not express sympathy for his grief because he was so joyful about life. I've never met anyone to whom joy is so natural. It startled me. For once, here was someone who looked at all of my children and was happy to see them; who did not have an ounce of judgment, sympathy, or mockery for how many they are or how stressed I must be. He was just purely and truly happy to see them; he didn't need to speak to them, or ask their names, or make any comments at all. He just looked at them, and it was good.
Wow. I didn't realize how much it had affected me until I wrote that. That's not what I intended to write, nor with so much emotion. This encounter (together with an article that I read last week and will re-share on our facebook page) are re-shaping the way I think/feel/approach/exist within motherhood. I feel lighter, free, at peace.