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To the woman in the grocery store

October 14, 2008

You were on your way toward the freezer aisle when you saw me, the woman with no makeup, heading past yogurt, butter, and cheese.

I may have startled you, staring at you that way,
At you and your baby,
Your very new baby.

You held him to your shoulder, wrapped in a pale cotton blanket, a blanket that showed signs of frequent washing. He was awake, and bright-eyed, and his ears reminded me of other small ears. His very smallness and newness also reminded me of someone I love.

This is probably why my eyes were so hungry.

You held him so matter-of-factly, with practiced one-armed nonchalance, with the easy homey grace of someone who has been doing this for a while. You looked just a bit tired, but I cannot feel sorry for you.

My hot-eyed weariness is jealous of your tiredness.

His dark hair looked so soft that it was all I could do not to walk over to you to touch it.

I saw your sweet dark-haired, dark-eyed little one and thought of my own fair-haired boy and of how soft his hair was when I last held him, of how I never saw him open his eyes, and I shuddered deep inside myself as I stood in the grocery store, trapped under the fluorescent lights, clinging to my husband’s arm on our way to the produce section. I stared and stared at you with hungry jealous eyes, and I hoped that I didn’t scare you.

Maybe you’d seen “March of the Penguins” and were reminded of the sad, bereaved penguins who try to steal living chicks after finding their own dead and frozen. Some days, it is true, I feel like one of those penguins (though my life isn’t fascinating enough to be narrated by Morgan Freeman), just wanting my aching arms to be filled. But you needn’t worry. Your baby is lovely and perfect, but he isn’t the one I long for, the one to whom I still call, the one my ears strain to hear. Where are you, my Teddy? I wish you could come back.

But if I did, if I did scare you with my naked face and hungry, reddened eyes, I’m not sorry. What you hold is very, very dear indeed. You know that of course, but if I reminded you for a minute, I don’t regret it.

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One comment

  1. You nailed it…



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