It was exceptionally dreary as we made our way through the fog on our daily pre-dawn commute to school. The weather was grey, the morning was hectic, and I felt like someone was missing in the car, the way you do when you overachieve at miscarriage. The more we stopped and started, inching forward behind miles of tiny red taillights, the bluer I became.
It’s the holidays, Man. A tough season for anyone over the age of 11. And honestly, it seems the more most wonderful times of the year you’ve chalked up through the decades, the further down you can find yourself in the weeks leading up to the happiest season of all. This is all coming from someone who’s obnoxiously Glass Half Full!…This time of year can be brutal. Sure it brings out the best in us, and also the worst. You don’t have to get many feet from your driveway to figure that out. And we were miles from home.
So I turned up the Holly station and challenged Harry to a contest to see who could sing the loudest. (He won. He screams.) And by the time we pulled into his school lot, I had veered back into the direction of normal. We parted ways, and I moved into the day.
But first, I had to stop for coffee.
This is what’s rough about getting out of the house in the sixes. Time is of the essence, and I excel at not making enough time to get it together to prepare the necessary to-go cup before going. So I stopped in at the giant chain up the street and stood in line. The line is always the feature in this place, it’s the main thing going on, and it winds around every table in the room…tables that no one in her right mind would even attempt to sit in because of all the crappy line people standing over your head in the line. It also creates the perfect environment for eavesdropping.
So I was standing in line, eavesdropping, over this mom and her four-year-old daughter who had crammed themselves around one of these tables. The mother was beautiful, in a seemingly and annoyingly no-effort kind of way, and she was dressed in the area’s mom uniform…fancy workout clothes. The ringlet child next to her was wearing some kind of pink and red fancy dress. It was 8 a.m. They didn’t have any food or beverage on their tiny table. They were just sitting there, waiting for something maybe, and the daughter was begging for a cookie. The mom said, “Sweetheart, no, no cookies, you don’t want cookies. You need to lose some weight.”
And then I stopped breathing.
I didn’t hear anything after that because my senses were no longer working as a team. My body was taken over by that punch-gut feeling you get when the boy you love breaks up with you. I went through all five stages of grief in 27 seconds.
Then I pulled out my phone. In a desperate attempt to remind myself I wasn’t in some kind of weird dream sequence, I did a version of “OH MY GOD DID YOU JUST HEAR THAT?” to the only other people around, the pixelated people on the electronic device in my hand…
I still wasn’t thinking clearly. I was typing this on Twitter and trying to breathe. I went through all the grief stages again and added on a few more just for fun. And then it was my turn to order. My ears were still numb and I was frankly still a little dazed when I stepped up and ordered a tiny hot chocolate with extra whipping cream. No. Make that two. No. Make that three.
As I waited for the beverages to be properly frothed and for my name to be called, I suddenly sobered up. Crap. Seriously. What the hell was I doing? I was taking eavesdropping to a new and inappropriate level of butting into someone’s life and parenting issues.
But then I realized this wasn’t about them.
It was about me. And my ears. And my blue mood that suddenly went exploding red hot with the utterance of six words. This was about me on about six levels. And it was about all of us…as girls, as mothers, as daughters, as people. Enough. We don’t even realize what we’re doing to each other. We don’t realize what we have. And we don’t realize how fragile, how resilient, and how powerful we all are.
I’d never expect a tiny hot chocolate to fix that. But that’s what I had at my disposal.
I collected my offering and walked over to the tiny table. I told the mom that ‘seeing such a beautiful mother and daughter out this morning made my day. Because it’s so great to see them together out during the holiday season. And what a wonderful thing to get to start the day with such a beautiful little girl. I came in for coffee, but I decided to treat myself to a hot chocolate and I wanted to buy them one too and say Happy Holidays!‘ And my God as I’m typing this now, it just sounds crazy. But in that surreal moment of weirdo dreamland perfectionville nonsense, it all somehow made sense.
And then the mom took the chocolate. It seemed she didn’t know exactly what to say. But then she started to tear up a tiny bit. And she thanked me.
I don’t think she’d had hot chocolate in a very long time.
And her reaction made me remember something. We all have our things. And we’re all missing things. And we should all be easier on ourselves and each other.
Let your heart be light. Just let it be.
Soundtrack: Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.