Today I went grocery shopping with Raphael alone. When I arrived at the store, he’d fallen sound asleep in his car seat. I heaved him out of the van and patted his cheek, but he was out. He’s getting so big, so heavy and long, that it was all I could do to hold onto him in his slick winter coat. But I managed to haul him into the store, where I laid him down in a shopping cart. He turned over on his side, hooked his fingers through the side of the cart and slept on.
I walked the aisles of the store, unencumbered by any child’s attention, and carefully stacked groceries around Raphi. I piled them in the child seat, I balanced a great load of them on the underneath part of the cart, where Max always wants to ride and brush the floor with his fingers (it makes me crazy, he’s always sneaking down there, and when I notice what he’s doing it gives me a heart attack. I just know he’s going to break a finger some day, and the ER doc will think I’m a terrible mother. Yes, it’s all about me).
As I made my way through the store, I watched people. I’m usually keeping an eye on three little boys as I shop, simultaneously keeping tabs on their whereabouts, gauging their direction, and comparing prices. So today, with my only attending child slumbering peacefully, I had a surplus of attention to go around. I scanned the faces of the people shopping alongside me. I surreptitiously looked in their carts and decided who was cooking for a family and who was on their way home to do some binge eating (I mean, cookie dough, potato chips, diet coke, and a box of discounted Christmas chocolates?).
I don’t know if I’ve never noticed it before or if today was a bad day in Denver, but people DID NOT seem to be enjoying themselves. They squinted down aisles, glared at their lists, and generally stomped through their shopping. I tried smiling at people, but I couldn’t get hardly anyone to make eye contact, much less exchange a weary smile.
As I rounded the tortillas I saw a boy coming down the aisle toward me. He looked to be about 15, with classic teenaged “you don’t get me” uniform on. Sagging shorts (HELLO, IT IS JANUARY IN DENVER), torn t-shirt, a lime green Gilligan hat pulled down over his ears. As he passed me he glanced in my cart, where he saw Raphael. He paused a moment, right there in the aisle, then looked at me and chuckled.
Of everyone in the store, moms and dads, checkers and baggers, he was the only person who looked around him long enough to notice a sleeping boy amongst the groceries. And he not only noticed, he appreciated his silly beauty there in the cart, surrounded by broccoli and spaghetti.
I don’t know what was up with the patrons of the grocery store today - I hope their week lightens up on them a bit. But I know this: I like that kid.