Saturday, August 7, 2010

Paper or Plastic?

I clearly remember the feeling of panic as I turned around and realized that my mother was nowhere in sight. We were at a huge grocery store (my GR readers will recognize Meijer's Thrifty Acres... acres was right!). I'm not sure how old I was, but I recall that my eyes were about level with the shopping cart handle, so I was at that three and a half feet tall age. I must have stopped to look at something just as Mom moved on to the next aisle. I looked down the next aisle, but didn't see her. I began looking down other aisles. In a building fit of terror, I looked down every damned aisle in the store. Surely she didn't leave me in the store and go home? I finally gave up and went to the courtesy desk.

Motherless and heartbroken I stood on tiptoe at the courtesy desk. In a squeaking sob though, in retrospect, I'm sure the person at the desk knew exactly why I was standing there), I forced out, "I... can't... find... my... Mooooooooommmmmmmm....." Through my own wailing I heard, "Mrs. Black, please come to the courtesy desk. Your daughter is looking for you... Mrs. Black, please come to the courtesy desk." It wasn't a comforting thing to hear. It implied that although I was looking for her, maybe she wasn't looking for me. What if she had gone home? What if she didn't care? She had four other children, so losing one probably wasn't going to be a big deal. I'm sure that the eternity I spent contemplating these things was really only a matter of minutes, and very few minutes at that, because there was Mom, walking determinedly and forcibly toward me.

"Quit crying. This is why I tell you not to wander off," and she firmly took my hand and led me back through the store to finish her shopping. I know now that her anger came from fear which came from deep love. At the time I felt like I was at fault for being lost. At the time I felt like she didn't have a clue how horrible it felt to be a motherless child, if even for a few minutes. Something galvanized in me that day, something became steely and hard. I knew I was never again going to allow myself to feel that penetrating sense of panic, much less be punished for it. And I never have.

We can choose how the events in our lives will affect us. We can meter our reactions. Life is going to keep happening. It's the only certainty other than death. Will you meet it head on, take what you want, and pay the necessary costs? Or will you be the one whimpering at the Courtesy Desk of Abject Fear & Self-loathing? It's your choice.

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