a proposal at a gas station

I was in a rush a few days ago.  A never-ending rush of driving kids, placating kids, getting food, picking up clothes/trash/toys/books/mail-we-haven’t opened.  I pulled into a gas station after dropping one of the three kids off at a gymastics class.  The other two were in the car.

Mommy, what are we doing?

Mommy, why are you getting out?

Mommy, I’m hunngrryyy….

Ugh. I’m getting gas. Be right back. Play with your toys.

As I got out of the car, a large black man started to approach me from behind.  “Ma’am, excuse me?”

I steeled myself. Immediately.  I didn’t waver. I steeled myself against this large black man whom I didn’t know at the gas station.

And do you know why I became defensive?  I had read that it was common for people to come to gas stations to steal purses from cars.  To ask for money.  Mostly because the gas stations are located so close to the highway.  Who knows if it’s true or not.  As such, I had made it a habit to lock my car and grab my purse when I was pumping gas.  But my kids were in the car, so my car was open and my purse was in plain sight.   I was in a rush.

“Excuse me, ma’am?”

“Uh-huh.” My response was negligible.  A verbal non-response.

“I’m trying to propose to my girlfriend, Jasmine, on the phone here,” he held up his face-time phone in view of me, “and she has asked that someone witness my proposal.  Will you watch me propose to my girlfriend? I’m going to get on one knee”.  He got on one knee on the concrete right next to my gas pump.

“Jasmine, you are the light of my life.  I can’t imagine living without you, will you marry me?”

I couldn’t hear her response, but I assumed it was yes by the joy on his face.  By that time, my mouth had dropped, I had muttered a congratulations, and my hand had fallen flaccidly off the gas handle.  My eyes wandered between the numbers on the gas tank, his face and his phone.

“Thanks, ma’am. I’m getting married!”  He walked back off to his van.  I watched him walk away from me.  He was a driver for a food company.  He hopped back into his food truck van and went on his way.  I stood there, paralyzed, my eyes drifting back towards the gas tank.

The tank was half filled, but I was filled with a vast void of shame and emptiness inside me.  With a little bit of selfish happiness that I got to experience the proposal of Jasmine and the black man at the gas station.

I looked around.  Did anybody else see what I just saw? No.  No one else was around me.

I got back in the car and sat there for a bit.  My eldest daughter asked me, “mommy, what did that man want?”

“Well, honey, it was the most wonderful thing.  He was proposing to his girlfriend.  Right here at the gas station.  And he wanted me to witness it.”

“What was her name?”

“Jasmine”

“Jasmine, like the PRINCESS?”

“Yes, like the princess.”

I can’t tell you how many times over the past few weeks I’ve thought of those 45 seconds.  About my defensive reaction to a large black man approaching me from behind at a gas station.  About his simple and joyous request for me to witness his marriage proposal.  About my shame, my complete and total emptiness.

bruised and blessed

A few weeks ago, my family went on vacation to the beach.  We brought all three generations, from the youngest, my son, at 3 months to the oldest, my father, who suffers from Parkinson’s, at 84 years old.  In between all the sandcastles and boardwalk ice cream, was a melding of family, with all the blessings and bruises family brings.  It’s these times that remain etched in our memories when all of us are gone.  The fragments of time, of the very young and the very old doing the ordinary things, are what stay.

That week, I watched my father walk downstairs and quietly ask my 15 year old niece, who pulled her attention away from her i-phone, to help him put on his watch.  I watched her fiddle with it for a while, as he stood there patiently.  He wavered a bit, standing unsteadily, as her nimble young fingers clasped the watch around his slight wrist.

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I listened to the daily giggles in the house from children running, laughing and singing; and I listened more intently when my father spoke quietly about the joy of hearing all the grandchildren in one place.

I watched my nieces race my daughters down the miles of sandy beaches.  I watched older cousins throw the younger ones into the air, and the little ones fall into fits of giggles.   I watched as my daughters clung fearlessly and devotedly to my nieces.  In my nieces, I saw my daughters.  Loving, gentle and kind sisters.

I practiced yoga with my 2 year old daughter and my sister-in-law-turned-yoga instructor.  My 2 year old climbed under my downward dogs and stretched her fingers to the sun.  We glanced at each other upside down, and we sat like frogs.

I struggled to find the words as my 5 year old daughter asked me the most difficult of questions.  “Mama, if we all leave the beach house to go to the beach, who will be here to help grandpa walk around?” and “Mama, why is grandpa old?” Her rawness and simple truth was uncomfortable for me, as I stumbled to find uncomfortable answers.

We provided arms and legs for my father to lean on when he needed it.  My mother walked with him to see the beach.  My brother and sister-in-law walked with him around the block.  And I walked with him to lunch.   We walked and walked and walked.    We helped, we laughed and we rallied.  We are bruised and we are blessed.  We are family, and these are the patchworks of our memories.

finding gratitude in the gritty

This week, my wonderful, lovely, compliant and helpful 4-year old has been overtaken by a whiney, sassy, determined and ungrateful pre-teenager.   I don’t know where she came from.  She just walked down the stairs on Tuesday and decided to stay for a while.  Unfortunately for me, her visit also happens to coincide with one of my single-parenting weeks, and right in the midst of potty training C.

I’m trying positive parenting.  I’ve never taken a class, but I’ve seen the phrase and I think it sounds really inspirational.  After all, it’s got to be better than the alternative, right?  Let’s be positive!  So, I’ve taken it to mean that I try to stay positive while my daughter tells me “no” – constantly and unyieldingly.  I bite my tongue when she tells me that she hates what I prepare for dinner, and she swims away from her swim teacher at her private swim class.   I can go on, but I’m guessing you get my drift.   What parent hasn’t had power struggles with their kids?

And then my other daughter literally poops in her pants.

It’s been an awesome week.  And I can’t even have a glass of wine at the end – you know – being 25 weeks pregnant and all.

So in the grittiness of parenting young children, often solo, I’ve been trying to reflect on one of my new years resolutions.  Being intentionally grateful.  And Lordy, sometimes, it’s really hard.

grateful

A friend recently asked me to close my eyes and try and embrace gratitude.  Just sit with it.  Try and feel it.  Open your hearts and hands to it, and in the new year try and find one thing to be grateful for.

Well, if you ever have tried to intentionally sit with gratitude for a few minutes, it’s not so simple.  It’s like meditation.  Your mind wanders.  You think of all the things that are good in your life, and then probably (if you are like me) all the things you would like to change.  It’s very difficult to sit quietly and embrace this one idea of total thankfulness.  After all, we are human.  How many times a day are we totally and completely thankful?

Um, a few?  Once?  Not at all?  Overwhelmingly and embarrassingly, I think about what I’d like to change over what I’m really thankful for.  So today – I’m grateful for very healthy children, including a 25 week baby boy, the sun that shined today and no snow.  And I’m super grateful that in 30 minutes, my house will be totally quiet and I can read a book, or stand on my head, or whatever I darn well please. 

What are you grateful for today?