Isn't it strange how life-affirming events almost always happen in the most mundane of all places, or, more specifically, during the pursuit of the bland?
I suppose it shouldn't be surprising. It's not like revelation waits for those RARE moments when you're all gussied up, coiffed and powered, and sets a place card for you at the table.
But the supermarket? The supermarket!
I've spent countless hours in empty rooms, in comfortable clothes, emptying my mind of its negative contents and not only does relaxation elude me, but I gain no insight into any of life's great mysteries.
Yet give me a cart with a wonky wheel, a kid who won't be still and an infant who is as happy as pie to just be attached and you can be sure some little bit of wisdom is going to come my way just as I try and find the aisle where the shopkeepers hid the pancake mix this week. As luck has it, the life lesson hits me right in the face instead of sailing past my head.
I remember the first time it happened: Ittybit was only a few weeks old and I had gone to the market for oranges. I was in the produce section frowning over clementines when the aunt of a friend came up to congratulate me.
I didn't feel worthy of congratulations. I didn’t feel like much of a parent. No experience. No sleep. No ability to see too far into the future. I told her the idea of returning to work frightened me, as did the idea of not returning.
"Don't worry," she told me. "You will make the right decision. And remember, if that decision doesn't work out you'll make ANOTHER decision and it WILL BE the right one!"
Just that little affirmation made me breathe easier. It's crazy but still comforting. You know, like when your mind is mulling over all the things that you can't shut down and some song comes on the radio that seems to fit perfectly. Some little bit of universal wisdom wedged into a couplet that makes you whistle a happy tune again all because it played when you needed it most.
So I guess I have to admit that when I need something spiritual in nature I go to the grocery store. I head right for the make-your-own coffee counter next the Bakery and then I slowly make my way up and down the other aisles, taking my time.
Usually, I'm given some sample of something that changes my outlook.
Just last week I was bagging my groceries with the little one asleep in the pouch. An elderly woman was sitting on a bench by the window and she asked for my attention. Like most people who notice me, she was interested in the being in the bag.
"Why look at him, he's so alert.
"And so handsome.
"You know, I predict he will do great things. I can see it in his eyes."
What is it about unsolicited praise from a stranger that makes everything seem so smooth and uncomplicated?
And somehow, with the sweetness of age and concern, even unsolicited advice seems silky soft.
"May I give you a piece of advice? Don't ever mock him. Don't even laugh at him with love. These smart ones catch on even when they don't really know."
It was something I know, sadly, from experience.
"Don't laugh at me," Ittybit tells us now, "You're making me foolish."
It's a shame I don't come to the store more often, I think, because by the time I get back to the car with my purchases and my lukewarm coffee, I've got more than nourishment for the body. I've got some for the soul, too.