Friday, February 4, 2011
A Smile Changes Everything
Grocery shopping with the three’s and mini is not for the feint of heart. If it wasn’t an excuse to get out of the house in the awful winter months when we are generally hibernating I’d wait until mr got home and go by myself. Alas, any excuse to leave our cell calls to me in lilting, un-ignorable tones. The grocery store beckons. We must away.
You can imagine, I’m sure, the insanity surrounding a two store trip with the kids. Two stores because, as you know, we’re tightening our belts. Therefore, I shop the cheapy store and then get the rest of my list at our usual haunt. By the time we make it to the Dairy Department, you may as well stick a fork in the bambinos, because they are DONE. Even mini’s general cheeriness and affable nature take a turn for the cranky.
And so do I.
Suddenly, I am rushing. I toss things in the cart as I race past the aisles... cheese, check. Soda, check. Although now you’ll need to wait a day to open it... bread, check. Eggs... ok, better not throw those...
What began as a promising diversion from our wintery cave has turned into a grueling chore. I want to silence the kids with a look. I want to give them time-outs. I want to give ME time-outs. Honestly, maybe TOO honestly, I want to throttle them. But I refrain.
We stop by the meat department, looking for the right hot dogs. A grandma pushes her cart past and pauses to smile at mini. That is my daughter’s cue.
Suddenly she is all giggles. She can’t stop smiling and waving. Her tiny dimple appears and it’s clear this grandma is a goner.
mini reaches for the stranger's hand and smiles wider as grandma talks with her. And then, of course, with me. She asks questions about the kids, I answer - at first dutifully, then (as the kids calm and interact politely) with more enthusiasm.
Before we part ways grandma touches my arm. “Thank you,” She says with a smile. I smile back. Before I can ask 'what for' she continues, “Most mama’s are just too busy or to weary to stop and talk. They don’t like it when a stranger talks to their babies. This was just so nice. I miss my grandkids so much.”
I had discovered during our short talk that her family lives in Chicago and she is far away from them for the first time - alone.
And so I say, “You’re so welcome. We love to stop and chat.” And the three’s agree with me - “Yep!” says K. “Yep, yep!” says bug. mini smiles and laughs.
“Her smile made my day!” Grandma says. “What a happy, happy girl!” I can’t help but laugh as well, mini is contagious. “You kids are lucky. You have a happy mama, too.”
And as I walk away I wonder. Is she right? Are they lucky? Do they have a happy mama (auntie)? Sometimes I wonder. They crab. I crab. I rush and rush. They cry. I WANT to cry. I push and push. Why don’t I react with an unexpected smile instead?
That one smile. From a stranger. It changed us all.
As we finished our shopping, I was much more gentle with the kids. I smiled more. I explained more. I sang songs while people stared, just because the three’s asked me to. Let people look. We were smiling to “Twinkle, Twinkle.”
And the funny thing? She claimed it was a smile that had changed HER day as well. An infectious smile from my baby girl and this stranger’s spirits were lifted. Did she realize that it was actually HER that triggered the fall of dominoes?
How often are we told that sometimes a smile is all it takes to comfort? To cheer. To uplift. And how often do we actually take that advice? Don’t I have so much to be glad of?
James E. Faust said that “we can let the light within us show in many different ways. It may be as simple as a smile.” I want my light to shine for others. I want to start a chain reaction that brightens countless days.
If my one-year-old daughter can lift someone’s spirits, surely I can too.
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