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.

what a freaking bummer

Anyone else feeling a little bummed out by the news lately?

One night, while OUTBREAK was flashing across the bottom of my 24 hour CNN nightly newscast, I got to thinking: if the Ebola doesn’t kill me, than the Entrovirus 68 is sure to come my way, or at least come after my kids. And if we LUCKY enough to escape those two rogue viruses, than sure enough – it’s the start of the flu season. And between my two nose-picking-hand-wiping preschoolers, and my husband who flies commercial airlines every other week, I’m sure we are bound to end up with at least a good old flu/stomach bug between the months of October and March. SWEEEET. Bring it on.

And if, but some random act of God, we end up spared Ebola, the Entrovirus, the flu and the stomach bug, well…then there is ISIS. Or ISIL. Or whatever we are calling the WORST-OF-THE-WORST terrorists these days.  I’m pretty sure every time I see a map of the Middle East, that red spider-like-web of ISIL controlled-territory keeps growing bigger and bigger.

And while I’m not sure exactly why I – in particular – should be afraid of this ruthless militant group thousands of miles away, the news and our politicians do an exceptionally good job of making me want to shut my windows and lock my doors in case the ISIL RED-WEB-OF-DEATH spills over the atlantic ocean into my backyard.

And don’t even get me started on the Congressmen who is hypothesizing Hamas terrorists may INFECT THEMSELVES WITH EBOLA and sneak into the US.   WHAT?!?  I think we should just leave the United States right now and head to Canada.  It MUST be safer up there.

And lest we not forget Al Qaeda. Or Afghanistan. Or Ferguson. Or the incompetence of our political leadership (see above quote).  Or the massive fires and droughts in California, or simultaneous hurricanes that just swept over Bermuda and Hawaii.

And SO…this is why I’ve started to mute much of the 24 hr news and decided, for at least a few weeks, to get all my news from the ELLEN show.  Wanna join me?  It will put you in MUCH better spirits.

This is my important news from last week:

I found out about Devon Still, a Football player for the Bengals whose 4-year old daughter has cancer.  When he learned of her diagnosis this summer, Still was granted permission by the Bengals to leave organized team activities and minicamp in June to attend to his daughter.

The Bengals had no choice but to cut him in September. However, the team re-signed him to the practice squad so Still would continue to get a paycheck and health insurance.  

Since then, more than 12,000 of his jerseys have been sold, and fans across the world tweet messages of support with #StillStrong (including the Patriots Cheerleaders who wore his jersey during one of the NFL games).  As a result, the team is donating all $1 million-plus of profit to the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.   GAWK.   

And yes, I started crying when I heard this story of FEEL-GOOD-AWESOMENESS-NEWS even in the midst of tragedy.  Humans are good.  Life is good.  People are really good to each other, despite what we hear on the news and often despite what politicians would have us believe.   So for now – and until I get tired of videos of puppies and small children – goodbye, CNN and hello, ELLEN.

simple loving

We recently returned from a simple beach vacation with family.  Long, lazy days by the beach, pool, or ice cream stand and nights by a fire-pit.  For me, it was a snapshot into the idealized American summer.

One dark night after the kids had gone to bed, J. and I snuck out to listen to some music.  We walked along the beach and found ourselves by the local fire-pit.  We held hands while singing along to various renditions of Eagles and Bob Marley songs.  In front of us sat families with older kids, making s’mores in the fire, and cuddling with the parents.

And I gotta admit – it was really REALLY nice.  It was nice to imagine what our family may look like in a few years time; and it was nice to see different families enjoying the simplicity of a few songs, a moonlit night, and roasted marshmallows together.  No technology, no lights, no board walks, no roller-coasters.  Just the simple fire, a dessert, a singer and a guitar.

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So imagine my surprise when I was lulled out of my fire-induced coma when the singer (a Bob-Marly wanna-be) looked straight at J. and myself and declared:

Bob Marley wanna-be: “You two, man. I’ve been looking at you all night. You are SO in LOVE! Look at HER, man. SING to her!”

J: laughing.

Me: I’m sorry, are you talking to us?

Bob Marley wanna-be: “LOOK AT HER, MAN!” “SING TO HER” “I”LL ALWAYS LOVVVVEEE YOUUU” (proceeds to sing)

J: still laughing, but now looking at me.

Me: he really can’t be talking to us, right? I mean. Really? And is there any way I can sneak away from this fire-pit? Looking around into darkness, trying to plan an exit strategy.

Bob Marley wanna-be (still singing) “One day, man, I’m going to be as in love as you two are!!”

This goes on for a while.  We are awkwardly laughing, waiting for it to end.   And it finally does.  They move onto singing something a bit more upbeat.  And a few songs later we quietly sneak away.

This whole embarrassing escapade got me thinking about love and the simple life.

Why was I so astonished that he thought J. and I looked in love?  I mean, yes, we were sitting by the fire.  Yes, we were holding hands. But most days I feel like we are a million miles away from the romantic “in love” of 10 years ago.

Love changes when we become parents.  It grows bigger, better, and more fuller to accommodate all the difficulties life throws at us.  It’s not easy or constant.  We work at it all the time.  It’s damn hard.  It’s not a simple love-song by the fire-pit.  And frankly, that’s ok with me.  I think we moved from “in love” to “love” a long time ago.

And our marriage (like most marriages of people we know) is egalitarian, committed, and focused on children.  We are jointly dedicated to raising our children AND creating satisfying lives for ourselves.  That’s a lot on our plate.  So romantic love?  Where does that fit in? When do we find time to sing to each-other, Bob-Marley-Style without texting on our iphones?

I’m not sure I have an answer.  However, after my immediate awkwardness with the situation, I decided that I was glad that it was clear that I love my husband.  That’s a good thing, no matter where we are in our relationship.  And I’m glad I can imagine sitting with our older princesses 5-10 years from now near that same fire-pit.  Them enjoying the same music we did.

And if every once in a while, between diaper changes and school runs, work trips and ballet recitals we get to hold hands – well that’s pretty good too.