Saturday, December 5, 2009

The (Un)kindness of Strangers

I’m sick. Dizzy-head, molten throat, pinched sinuses, kind of sick. Sophia and I have been over at Nan’s house, playing outside for 2½ hours and, being coldblooded, I’m nearly frozen through to boot. Sophia, too, is in fine form. She’s crying, first that her fourteen Mardi Gras necklaces are tangled, then that her be-loved Snakie-Pie has fallen on the car floor, out of her reach. Tears and snots are flowing freely.

If I don’t get cold medicine, I am going to die. Just a little Phenylephrine HCl and I’ll be able to make it through dinner. We drive from Nan’s house to the pharmacy. I scoop Sophia out of the backseat, who protests as she clutches her knotted mass of bling, “My necklaces! My necklaces!”
“Necklaces stay in the car,” I say wearily, “they’ll wait for you until you get back.” She drops the necklaces, and I carry her into the pharmacy. Once inside I set her on the floor and she makes a break for the Seasonal Items isle. Her hands are a blur, pulling items off the shelf, discarding some and clinging to others. I semi-patiently pick them up, replace them on their shelves, pry the others from her cleptomaniacal clutches, and usher her over to the Cold Remedies section. As I’m searching for the right mix of OTC poison to hold my symptoms at bay, Sophia grabs hold of some ruby-red Cloraseptic spray and declares, “My Drink!”

“No Sophia! Not for you!”

“For Daddy! For Daddy!” She cries as I wrestle it away and set it back on the shelf.

I’m begging now, “Please Sophia. Please let mommy get the two things she needs and I’ll take you home.”

But Sophia is not in a generous mood. She takes off down the isle and hops onto a plush rocking horse. (Now CVS is selling rocking horses? What new parental torments will they think of next?) “MY HORSEY!” Sophia cries, as I lift her off. “You have a motorcycle to ride on, back at Grandma and Grandpa’s,” I remind her. I grab some oatmeal off the shelves and give it to her to carry. This distracts her for about 8 seconds, before she rolls the oatmeal down the Greeting Card isle, and attacks the shelves of birthday wishes. “READ A BOOKY!” She exclaims, grabbing a sparkly one.

“We’re not buying cards for anyone right now,” I say, an edge forming in my disappearing voice. At this, she throws herself down on the floor and sobs at the injustice of it all.

I’m done.

I hoist her into my arms. She is a feral beast, bucking, twisting, and screaming at the top of her little lungs, “Put me down on the floor mommy. I WANT TO GO DOWN. I WANT TO GO DOWN!!!!”

I join the checkout in front, forgoing the really good stuff that I want and need—the Sudafed they sell behind the counter of the pharmacy—because I’m done.

There are four people ahead of me on line. Sophia continues to scream and fight. I must look as exasperated as I feel. One would think that these folks would take pity on me, and let me go ahead. One would think that they’d want me and my screaming child out of CVS as soon as possible. But no, they avoid my eyes and silently wait their turn as Sophie continues her tirade.

I think for a moment of asking for the favor of going ahead of them. But I am too proud to ask for help. Instead, they become the target of my frustration. I quickly decide that I hate them. How could they be ignoring me? What could possibly be going through their minds right now?

Schadenfreude: (Smirking) I remember those days. Her turn now.

Judgment: (Shaking head) What kind of mother drags her poor, tired child out into the cold at dinnertime?

Disgust: (Frowning) Why doesn’t she just pop a binky in that brat’s mouth and be done with it? (

Absolutely Nothing: (Singung along with the muzak) Hey now, hey now, don’t dream it’s over. Hey now, hey now, when the world comes in…I love this song! I wonder who sings it…

I cough, hard, and envision my germs taking wing and landing on each of these unkind strangers. A pox on all of you!

In this moment, I am angry, but I also feel terribly alone.

Mommy takes care of the boo-boos, the boom booms, and the ut ohs. But when mommy’s sick, who takes care of mommy?

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