Migraines are no good friends to have. My no good friend came to visit during the annual and eagerly anticipated girls retreat away. It’s one of those events where you count down the days and then hours until you sprint out of your house away from your children, messes and responsibilities. Straight into the arms of your friends, copious amounts of cheese, dark chocolate and clean white sheets at a guest house. My participation was cut short as my husband had to rescue me in my migrained puking state.
I felt sorry for myself in appropriate amounts. Meaning, a lot. It took no less than three days to recover. From the migraine. I’m still dealing with the self-pity of the lost girls getaway.
By Saturday I had to get out of bed and face life again. Minus the restorative power of friends, cheese and clean sheets. Sometimes life is like that, isn’t it?
Small children where loaded in to the car. To the grocery store we go. Along the way I stopped by a friends house (“pick up a hard drive” were the instructions of my husband). Of course a short stop for a hard drive was quickly forgotten as our kids mingled and we quickly settled in to a conversation about those things we talk about. The worlds problems were close to resolution by the time we were done. Middle East peace. Rampant disease. Broken families. All that.
At one point I casually checked my wrist watch. Too much time had passed and I had worked my-self in to a very bad situation.
If you don’t live in South Africa this all means nothing to you. But if you do, you know that all of the above factors spells imminent doom for whoever foolishly proceeds with said plan to grocery shop in those circumstances. Or at least some hair loss and momentary insanity.
I told my friend where I was headed and she just shook her head and muttered, “Well, good luck to you. You are a braver woman than I.” She was no help.
I steeled myself as we entered. “Thabo, get the cart! Garett hold the list! Now listen closely and let’s all stay focused”. We weaved in and out of aisles navigating each obstacle.
A large group of young girls was gathered near the pasta talking loudly and laughing like they were waiting to see One Direction. Another group of men was walking ever so slowly past the dried beans like they were sight-seeing and had spotted the Leaning Tower of Pisa. They did not want to be rushed.
I herded my boys through, on a mission to get in and out before even more people packed in an already packed full store.
We finally got to checkout where everybody was squeezing into various lines trying not to knock over the lemons in the process. It was my turn and I could feel a tap on my shoulder. A tall strong man was standing behind me holding a deli pack of fried chicken and a large bottle of bright green Cream Soda. I looked at him and he said something I could not understand.
All the noise, chaos and accents were blocking his meaning from my understanding. He pointed at his chicken and cream soda and said it again.
I responded how I always do when strangers say something I don’t understand.
His face sort of pleaded. Again the pointing at the chicken and cream soda and then at the check-out lady. He wants me pay for his food. This is what he wants.
I mentally added up his bill, feigned a look of compassion and said again, “No”.
Again the talking in the accent I didn’t understand with the noise and the chaos.
Again I said, “No, I’m not paying, sorry!”
He looked confused and his words became suddenly clear. “I just want to pay quickly lady, I’m late for work. Couldn’t I jump in front of you?”
I turned red in the face. I was embarrassed. He was generous. I assumed he wanted me to buy his food, that he had no money. Honestly, it’s not an uncommon request. I stepped aside and he quickly paid and rushed off to work. I finished up and escaped Pick ‘n Pay (On a Saturday! The day before Easter! With kids in tow!).
Things happen. Things just do. Lot’s of little moments of unmet expectations, crowded grocery stores and strangers speaking in accents you don’t understand.
A lot of kindness and grace is required. Wether you missed your friend-cheese-chocolate-clean-sheet escape or mistook the tall-strong-employed-man for a beggar. A lot of kindness and grace is required. It just is.
Photo Credit: Kate Ter Haar