We’ve just come home from Omaha.
The center where we visited Shari was filled with others, traveling their own journeys of recovery alongside her. We heard patients there sing, we shared smiles and donuts and laughter with many of them, people we didn’t know a day before yesterday and will likely never cross paths with again.
It was wonderful.
There was a girl of twenty-one, whose body told of trauma through its shakes. She sat with us in a circle, happy to talk and visibly smitten by our babies.
Yesterday, she sat next to a little one, allowing her to run her tiny baby fingers over her bracelets, giving her jewelry, her body, her time. Every now and then, without any permission, she would lean over and place her lips on the head of the baby girl. And the baby girl’s mamma would make no visible notice of this. She’d simply hold the baby girl in place, there for the bracelet-touching, there for the kiss-receiving.
Today, I gave the girl my baby. I dangled him in front of her, so that he could peer into her eyes and her into his, and I watched tenderness blossom like the flower it is. When her aide came to wheel her to the next building over for brunch, she leaned in and took what was hers. She placed her lips on his little forehead, kissed, and bid him goodbye.
What grace there is in allowance.
This past Christmas season, I thought it would be genius to get a part-time job at a department store. I thought it would be a smart way to supplement my day job.
I love interacting with people, I do. But the first day at the helm left me scarred. One of my very first customers was none too pleased with my learning curve, and it seemed that my cheery disposition did little to offset her frustration. The more I smiled and made little funnies, the more she seemed to lean towards hatred. By the time she walked away, I was near tears. She didn’t say one outright rude word to me. But the distaste in her face was unmistakable. I was mortified. Why does it hurt so bad when people don’t like/love us?
The weeks went by, Christmas inched closer, and with it, the urgency of people’s transactions. But with each swipe of an item, I would ask “…and who is this for..?”, urging them to remember why the hell they were out at 10:00pm on a weeknight, not nestled in their beds.
The lines were long and I was always tired. I work afternoons at my day job, so I start late, but I end late too, and I had just moments to jump from one workplace to the other. A woman in my line caught me yawning one night, and asked if I was tired. “Heck yes!,” I replied. “Aren’t you?!”
The store I worked in was moments from a busy intersection, and lined on all four sides by every other retail establishment in existence. Traffic was heinous. So — when roughly 30 minutes after my yawn, I turned around to find that woman back near my register, I cocked my head to the side, confused. Then she smiled a big smile, thrust a cup holder with FOUR VANILLA LATTES in it across the space and into my hands, and then — wrapped her arms around me tightly and brought my cheek to her lips.
It happened so fast. A minute later, she was gone, and I was standing in front of yet another customer, waiting for me to ring her up. I looked up at the young woman, wide-eyed and dazed, and before greeting her and thanking her for coming to ‘our store’, I asked, “Did she just kiss me?”
“Yes.” Her eyes beemed while she confirmed it. “Why, yes. Yes she did.”