The baby was whining, again. (Getting teeth is nasty business.) I had to take a break. “I’m going to run to Harvest Time,” I shouted to my husband as I walked out the door. Even the Sunday afternoon crush of shoppers couldn’t dampen my mood. There’s something about stacks and rows and piles of fresh fruits and vegetables that just make the day seem brighter. I grabbed a plump looking orange and inhaled deeply. Citrus scents fill my nose and jolted my brain awake. I slowly made my way around the store, taking my time, meandering. As I reached the meat section I noticed something odd.
A little girl, probably not more than a few months older than Gigi, sat in a shopping cart. On her left foot she had a soft pink winter boot but her right foot was bare! I noticed the missing boot sitting on the bottom rack of the shopping cart and laughed silently to myself. I could envision the battle that must have taken place and the exasperated parent saying, “fine, don’t wear the boot.” Toddlers are like that.
As I combed through the meat cooler I realized that what I needed was just behind the little girls cart. I smiled at her and approached slowly, trying not to seem too creepy to her or her parent who was likely near by. She sucked on one finger and it reminded me of Gigi. As I moved on I couldn’t help but glance back at her. There was no adult in close proximity. A few more minutes confirmed that she was alone. A young boy rushed down the aisle towards her and then right past. The mom in me paused and as I lingered by the frozen foods section I kept half an eye on her. She did not seem worried. Suddenly a man rushed up to the cart and tossed a wrapped package in. Daddy. I breathed a sigh of relief and went on with my trip. So often I worry about my little girl and all of the dangers of the world. But it occurred to me in that moment that my instinct to watch after a child, any child, was not unique. You see I realized that there is a secret army of moms quietly watching, ready to help at a moments notice.
I thought of my own husband at home with a fussy teething baby, trying to make do, both of them waiting anxiously for mama to return. I moved quickly through the rest of the store grabbing what I needed, paid at the checkout, and headed through the door for home.