It is Sunday morning and I am in the parking lot of Wal-Mart. It’s a beautiful day – I look at the small trail of cars and trucks and a motorcycle. Everyone is out but not here. My husband and my son have gone inside to get a few things and I have decided to stay back or rather stroll in the parking lot. I am not sure why, but perhaps because I wish to be outdoors for a refreshing start or because I have made too many trips here in past week that I want to avoid it.
I see a mother and son walking with their cart towards a compact car. Perhaps, a single mom with limited, necessary supplies for the week – most of them for her kid and very little for herself – maybe two jobs a day in this rough economy, maybe none. As they patiently download groceries into a compressed trunk, I see a glimpse of me and my son in them. A series of questions answered by maybe’s, mm-hmm and silent nods and sometimes a smile. I almost sense that she will walk to park the cart while her son will sit in the car, watching her with affection. Mothers are so predictable. That is what happens. She even waves at him on her way back. Something, I’d never do – something I should learn to take the time even when there is no visible need. Why did I think, she was alone? Why did I assume such? I may be totally wrong – maybe a loving husband is sleeping in or waiting for his family with coffee and hot chocolate, waffles and pancakes. I hope it’s the latter. I sincerely do.
They drive away. I turn around. The breeze moves my hair, gets into my linens. A solitary chickadee flutters with its characteristic sound. I look up to find it and then I catch sight of a very old couple walking with a large cart and a few things – mostly tissues, canned food and prescription paper bags. Life – I murmur. I am suddenly saddened by their stop and go, by the twisting and turning of their cart. I see myself couple of decades down the road. I see my stretched life burdened with medications and pain. But, I am wrong. They are arguing about how to load their van, about something totally unimportant than complaining about their ailments. The old woman is suddenly upset and now the husband has put his arm around her. She snugs in, hiding her face and rubbing her glasses on his tweed coat. They are in love, probably after forty-fifty years of wedlock; after countless times of picking trash from kitchen, of changing diapers, of filling college applications and of counting the decreasing cash in the wallet at the end of month. They are holding on to each other after endless arguments around the dinner table and disapproval of each others sleeping habits and insomniac snoring. And yet never letting the winter of life ruin the summer within. I watch them with hope and wonder until they disappear.
A young woman walks by with a studded cell phone by her ear and a dangling headphone in another. Her attire smells corporate – probably working on a weekend catching up with family needs in between – she is holding a small plastic bag – looks like forgotten in the previous grocery list. She is talking or almost shouting asking about the fax, the presentation and somewhere in between the word deadline makes its appearance. I know that life – I used to live A similar one until I realized the only ladder I will climb will be of career as the rest will disappear from my life. I want to walk to her and tell her to go home instead of her office in case that was happening, but I stand and watch her tense expressions, the tired lines of makeup covering her identity and the dress skirt holding a woman of more than one dimension but letting out only the unhappy one walking on a tightrope of work and family. Let go, I whisper as she speeds by. I hope she heard me.
The next image is of a familiar father and son, talking, laughing and pointing at me. I smile back. I wave. I take the cart and race with my son. I download and go to park the cart and I know he is looking at me. I sprint back and snuggle in my husband’s stretched out arm for a different purpose. He looks at me. We are getting old by the minute, I say. He lets me rest my head. I stay there for a moment. People are walking by, staring at us.
Anything interesting? My husband asks.
Oh just little lessons of life! I reply.
How was the store? I look ahead.
Usual – little lessons of life, he smiles and winks at me.