Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Body Language (11/25/10)
TITLE: Vanquishing the Chaos of the Aisle
By Theresa Santy
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My kids are bloated with liveliness as if their little bodies were energized from friction with linoleum as they ran wild through the store. Getting through this narrow checkout passage with even a trace of elegance will be nothing short of a miracle, yet my skills as a mother will be earnestly judged here. I will give in to exhaustion however, and do nothing to prevent the inevitable.
My four-year-old Jacob darts ahead, brazenly invading the personal space of the tall woman ahead of us in line. Consciously I grasp the importance of manners, but I wonder; can such a possession be maintained?
Jacob zips to and fro, scanning the racks filled with candy, sweet nectar for my little humming bird son. The boy has no idea it’s not his turn to peruse the racks, but the tall woman knows and her posture stiffens. This woman holds her back toward me and I watch her knuckles pop, nearly breaking through the skin, as she clutches the edge of her cart. The tall woman stands firm, unmoving while her daughter loads her groceries onto the belt, as if by maintaining rigidity and concentrating all her energy from her center outward, she might create a force field to protect her space.
My wayward son returns to my side. I imagine the tall woman’s force field is working, but then my three-year-old Rebekkah escapes and scales the tall woman’s cart, since it is the perfect tree for her monkey limbs. The tall woman breathes audibly, clenches her jaw and beyond all conceivability, stiffens further.
I realize I should control my children. But I believe Rebekkah’s climb will be short, and I’m weary, so the only action I take is to feel empathy for the tall woman. I recall what it was like to be overcome by the smallest of life’s annoyances.
Rebekkah hops off and the tall woman proceeds to the cashier. She glances back while sliding her credit card and her posture softens in the space of a snap. Her jaw is soft and noticeably unclenched.
Ahh, she’s noticed my beautiful scarf. Its bold rich prints are quite and eye catcher, but I suppose this fine silk piece is never enough to distract from the baldness below. The tall woman realizes her tension is wasted on me, or so I imagine. She gives me a smile before walking away.
I take my turn with the cashier, who looks at me for the first time. Her loving smile rests gently on my eyes. It’s the same smile given by the tall woman and the same expression I see from others whenever my scarf comes into view. I used to despise this gesture, believing strangers had no right to smile at me when they had no conception of what I was going through. But now I look forward to this gift. At times it feels like a hug. More often it feels like the very light of God bathing my soul. It is a soft and pleasing rise of the lips which seems to say, “I know, dear one. I know.”
My children and I exit the tip of the funnel. We are free. I’m minutes away from my fuzzy blanket and overstuffed couch and could not be more delighted. Jacob and Rebekkah are surprisingly calm. Perhaps my tired little conquerors will be willing to take a nap.
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