Dear Checkout Lady at Trader Joes,
Thank you for not staring too long as I cried while you checked me out this afternoon. It was nothing you said or did; it was not spontaneous emotion brought on by seeing my frozen Vegetable Panang Curry being lovingly placed in the TJ’s brown paper bag. It was that family two aisles away. You may not have noticed the father in the gray hoodie with the yellow rain jacketed little girl. He was teasing his daughter about what Santa might leave in her stocking and her high pitched laughter at his funny suggestions made my heart full with sorrow which leaked out onto the keypad of the credit card machine. I apologize, but thank you for ignoring my hurried attempts to wipe my tears away.
You see, Wesley, my husband and father to a sweet little girl died last year so this is our second Christmas without him and at all times,but at Christmas most of all, I have a hard time seeing young families. I don’t always feel like that though, lest you think I’m horrible. Like most things in grief there is no black or white so one day I might feel nothing but love and gratitude for sweet young couples with babies on their hips and another feel my heart shrivel in my chest and my breath fail me as I see a couple link fingers and hold hands. Because that was me; but is me no longer and that hurts sometimes. The strong fingers that linked with mine are gone and so seeing the easy love and comfortable rapport of others can be hard to bear witness to. I guess we all have our tipping point where the water goes over the dam. This was my moment and you bore witness to it. Thank you.
I promise I do not often cry in public. Despite having a blog where I talk at length about grieving, I am personally quite careful to not burst into tears in front of strangers or co-workers. I square my jaw, regulate my breathing and steel my voice leaving my sorrow at the door but today after running errands and rushing in the Christmas bustle of excitement I almost forgot that I’m widowed. That I’m a single mother who blessedly has amazing support and love from family and friends. But today I’m picking up stocking stuffers and frozen meals and more than anything I want to go home in the pouring rain to my husband and my family. I want to walk in soaked and have Wesley laugh at my sodden hair and comment on my ugly but very utilitarian rain boots; I want to find him sitting in the middle of our living room messily wrapping presents and I want to talk over dinner about what last minute; truly LAST minute things we need to get for our families. I want to see him dressed up in a Santa suit rapping a white gloved hand at the back door and winking as he departed, I want the life I thought I’d have. The life of those around me.
Thank you for your heartfelt “Merry Christmas” not said perfunctorily but with true meaning, your kind eyes catching my tear filled ones. Or at least I heard your words that way as I rushed away, avoiding the eyes of fellow customers and escaping the store which suddenly felt too small. I escaped to my SUV, curled into a ball and sobbed in gratitude for your kindness. For saying “Merry Christmas” and not making me explain my inexplicable tears. Because I’m not crying over something; I’m crying over everything. And you have other people to check out. But for me; thank you.
The Woman in the Checkered Rain boots