Friday, January 28, 2011

Long Days, Short Years

This is my most recent FW piece. I wrote this with completely no regard for winning, which is good, since I didn't! They haven't posted highest rankings yet so I don't know if I made it into the top 30, but I doubt that happened, either. It's a departure from my normal short fiction. I'm just telling a true story here. And I promise, every word in this is the absolute truth! This happened back in 1999 at the Super Saver grocery store in Council Bluffs, Iowa and has always stuck with me.

Long Days, Short Years

I don’t remember what season it was or what day of the week it was, either. I’m doing good to remember the year. To be honest, most of the days during that period of my life run together in a blur of memory. Lack of sleep can do that to you. Children can do that to you, too.

At the time of this story, I had three of them. I had three born within a four year period. For some reason, we thought that was a good idea at the time. Now, I wonder--what were we thinking?

I was grocery shopping when this incident occurred. Yes -- grocery shopping with three small boys. You understand, I’m sure! Our oldest, Will, was four and while he’s always been a well-behaved boy, he was still only a pre-schooler. So that meant having little legs that tired easily and sometimes, when one is four, it’s really hard to stand still while Mommy stops the cart and tries to make decisions. And let’s not forget the capricious bladder of a pre-schooler!

And then there was Ben, who was two at the time and not nearly so well-behaved as his older brother. Ben was born with a number of special needs and was quite developmentally delayed. But in his third year of life he suddenly figured out how to move and decided to make up for his first couple of years of inactivity. Having no fear whatsoever, he quickly became a menace both himself and others. I have plenty of stories that I’ve unsuccessfully tried to block from my memory… So, to keep him from hurtling himself out of the cart, I would sit him down in the back of the contraption and thread a Velcro strap I had through the slats of the cart and around Ben’s tummy. He was trapped! That worked until the day he figured out how to pull the strap apart –but that’s another story!

At the time of this incident, Ben also had severe eczema. We eventually got it under control, but for a long time, the poor kid looked like he’d been on the losing end of a fight because he was missing patches of skin on different parts of his body. He was kind of pathetic looking and I could be sure of receiving comments from horrified on-lookers, no matter where I took him!

And then there was the baby. David was just a few months old at the time and had a perpetually purpled mouth because of the anti-thrush medication he had to take. That also elicited a few comments from passer-by! I would set his infant seat on the seat portion of the cart, which left me a space of about twelve inches within which to place all my groceries.

So this particular day was a normal day in this season of life. I was in the store, trying to make decisions on a very limited budget. I had a running total in my mind of what I’d already chosen, all the while trying to encourage Ben to not smash the potato chips with his feet, assuring Will that I’d take him potty just as soon as I could, and hoping David wouldn’t suddenly decide it was time to eat.

As I checked out that day, a little old lady was in line behind me. Hunched over, she had hobbled through the store and was now placing her items on the belt behind mine. As she did so, she suddenly leaned forward and said to me, “These days are the best days of your life, you know.”And, quite honestly, I wanted to deck her! If this was the best season of my life, then there wasn’t a whole lot else to look forward to!

But, of course, she was right. Two of those little boys are now teenagers, daily plowing through my fridge and cupboards like starving refugees. And the third is right on their heels (and just as hungry). I look at them at times, and while I can honestly say I’m enjoying this season of life, too, I’d love to go back to those sweet, early days. Amidst all the struggle and plain hard work of that time, I had a treasure in those little boys.

And then, one of these days I’ll be the little old lady in the grocery store assuring the young, harried mom with the wisdom born from experience.

Maybe I should duck first.

No comments:

Post a Comment