I Think I Love You
Exquisite Autumn

Only Looking Backward

Monday April 17, 1995: I went shopping at Walmart. I know the date only because it was the week that Haley was born, and I always went to Walmart on Mondays after work. What did I buy? Probably refried beans, spaghetti, bananas, pears, and chocolate chips. Probably just one more of those packages of tiny diapers, and maybe another package of wipes, and perhaps a few binkis or a container of baby lotion (Johnson & Johnson's, of course), or whatever other baby thing I couldn't resist. I know what I had on, even: my favorite blue denim dress, which was not a maternity dress, but I was tiny enough with that pregnancy to get away with it. I still remember what another Walmart shopper said to me, an older woman with grey hair and a wobbly head: "My goodness, dear! You are enormous! Are you having twins?" because her comment made me cry when I got back to the car. (The car! It was my favorite car we ever owned, a Honda Accord the color of "rosewood"; I loved that car!)

But here is what I remembered the most from that evening, this morning after I went running and then to Walmart: walking through the parking lot, pushing a cart despite my awkward belly, and realizing: the next time I go grocery shopping, I'll have this baby with me! I remembered that moment today because it was the last time I'd grocery shop without a small one with me for some time—until, in fact, this morning. It hit me, all of a sudden as I walked across the Walmart parking lot, how much is passed in my life. I won't ever have my own little one to take to the store with me again. That part is gone.

I watched all the young moms there in the store. One had a sobbing daughter who didn't like the color of chapstick she'd picked out and really, really wanted to get a different one. Another with a cartful of three little boys and barely any room for groceries. One with a new baby wailing in its carseat. I have been all of those women, and when I was I noticed the women not like me, the ones shopping all by themselves. How nice that must be! I thought of them, to shop without kids. Yes: I've made it to this point in my life, where if I want I can always grocery shop by myself. But I'm not sure if "nice" is really the word for it.

Sure, there's the trade-off. There's a speed and a lack of frustration that comes with shopping all on your own. No one pestering me to buy a toy or a package of cupcakes. No one grabbing a tomato from the pyramid and starting a tomato avalanche. No one running away or getting lost; no one crying in the cart. No one begging for one of these and some of those and a bunch of that. I was in and out of the store in twenty minutes and I spent half of what I usually do.

But the other side of the trade off is this: there was no one. No one to make me laugh, no soft little head to ruffle, no one to help me remember just how desperately much we neeeeeeed some of that yogurt with Oreos you mix in. The trade off for speed and less frustration is less happiness and light.

When I got back to my van after shopping, I sat there and cried, just like I did that Monday evening 16+ years ago. I couldn't help think of the contrast. That person I used to be (sobbing in the car and feeling enormous) still had everything in the future to imagine and look forward to, years of carting babies and toddlers and preschoolers around with her. Years, yes, of wishing desperately for just a little bit of solitude, but all those tiny, individual moments of holding a child's sticky hand. What I have now is only looking backward: remembering the sticky hands and the soft, fluffy heads and the sweet voices. Remembering, and grateful to have the memories, grateful for all I got to do. But still wishing I had more looking forward to do, and less looking back.

Comments

Andrea

You are amazing!!! This is just what I needed to hear today to remind me to appreciate my little boys. Thank you!

elizabeth

I had this exact same experience this morning; I normally don't go to Target after I drop off Bridget at preschool, but I decided to try and get a few errands done without anyone... it was kind of sad. I felt weird to be there by myself, during the daytime. I was probably creepily watching the lady and her little 2 year old gabbing through the aisles... sniff. I can't even imagine how sad it will be next year when Bridget goes to full-day kindergarten.

Chris S.

Not to freak you out, but now you can look forward to grandkids one day. Of course not anytime too soon. Hugs!

I only shop by myself, as shopping with my kids gives me a migraine ;)

Pat Passamonte

Oh Amy, don't be sad! You aren't done with little people, you're just moving to a new stage. Now you know better than you did 16 years ago how precious and fleeting those times are, so when you do get grandbabies, you will appreciate them in ways you can't imagine now. I honestly never expected to love ANYONE again in my life as much as I love my grand daughter. And I think those years w/o little people around makes her that much more of a gift. You should still look forward, and you have many more years of experiencing the different stages of your kids lives. There's still so much good stuff ahead of you, I promise. Have a wonderful day!

Shaunte

I've been doing a lot of that lately too.
These @$%# menopausal hormones!;)

Margaret

Perhaps it is the pregnancy hormones in me (39 weeks with 3rd and final kid), or perhaps it is your beautiful writing, but I am a mess! Just this week I was "that mom" with her two older kids and an enormous belly struggling through the store and NOT taking the time to enjoy it. On another day, I was also "that mom" who got to go shopping all alone (if you don't count the belly) because both big kids were in school/preschool and I enjoyed it and thought "but next week, I'll have the baby with me... no more alone time." I am both excited and scared to be going back to that state. Your post brings forth so many emotions for me -- mostly gratitude to be mindful enough to take the time to look back AND to look forward. What a gift your words are to me today, even through the tears.

wendy

I need to read this every week, I think. My little guy has become so strong willed that I think I am forgetting to enjoy him sometimes. Thank you for your beautiful reminder.

Melissa Kaiserman

Sigh. Beautifully said. The only reason I'm not crying right now (over what I'll someday miss and know I am not fully appreciating right now) is because I'm on my way to bed, my hubby is not here tonight, and I don't want to cry alone. :)

Kim D

It's already been said, but you have so much to look forward to. Your pride when your children graduate from high school and college, the emotions when they are married, the overwhelming love you'll feel when you hold your first grandchild (and your second and third), the joy of discovering your children as adults and liking them as people and not because they are your children, rediscovering "just the two of you" with your husband - different but still great. You have SO much to look forward to!

Isabel

What a beautiful post. (Do your kids read your blog? If not, you should share this with Haley).

It was the perfect post for me since Babboo just started kindergarten.

Carson Wininger

From Accord to a van, huh? Perhaps you could trade back to an Accord in the future. Maybe the old woman was more used to the idea of pregnant women wearing maternity dresses. It's either that or the denims you wore made you look smaller (sexier?) in all other respects but for your baby bulge. Each phase has its own ups and downs.

Wendy

Another poignant, beautiful post!

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