There was a woman shopping with her little boy; I'm guessing he was about four years old. He walked next to her, so damned happy he was practically glowing, and he clutched a package of cookies at his chest. I passed them twice, and twice I head him ask, "I'm being good, right, Mommy?"
She assured him he was.
I wound up in the self-serve line behind them; she only had about 6 things, fruits, vegetables, milk, a loaf of bread. And the cookies. The cookies went across the scanner first and were set on the scale, and he bounced on his toes while Mommy scanned everything else.
And then she froze for a moment, her debit card in hand; he shoulders went a touch slack and she sucked in a breath, glance at her little boy, and back at the screen.
When she knelt down to get at his eye level, I knew what was coming. I braced for the temper tantrum. She didn't have enough; something had to be put back, and it needed to be the cookies.
He didn't scream. He didn't throw a fit. His lower lip went out just a little and his eyes flooded with tears, and I damn near wanted to cry right along with him.
"But you said if I was good today I could get some cookies. I was good, right?"
She promised him he was a very good boy, always a very good boy, but she didn't have enough money to buy both the food they needed and the cookies. And she tossed him the parental bone: maybe on payday.
Those tears spilled over his cheeks and as young as he is, I'm sure he's heard that before and felt the sting of how maybe tends to evaporate into thin air.
|It's really not about the cookies...|
Parental bones are splintered with the guilt of not having guts, and they prick at you for decades.
I'm not going to say exactly what I did, but I will tell you this: when they left, he was happy, and the guy behind me and the lady to my right both had cash in hand and were stepping toward the little boy.
He wasn't leaving without those cookies.
I'm pretty sure that by the time they got home the chocolate chips in them were a little melted, and a few cookies were cracked and crumbled from being held so tightly. But I bet they tasted sweet, enough to tide him over to the next inevitable maybe.