The woman—dark hair with hints of auburn, the back scooped up in an invisible comb—dances down the aisle of the grocery store between the boxes of cereals and the baking goods. Pushing her cart, she sways to the store’s muzak, oblivious that the young girl beside her slows her pace and pretends to study the canned soups to put as much distance as possible between them.
I didn’t want anyone to suspect the dancing woman was my mother. It didn’t matter that I knew no one personally at the grocery store. Other than the two of us, the aisle was empty, at least for the moment. I held my breath, praying that the music would change to something less jaunty, and she would lose her enthusiasm for kicking out a leg or bouncing from foot to foot.
Even so, beneath my embarrassment, down in the dark, secret earth of girlhood, a seed now nestled—Would I ever dare to do such a thing—a brazen dance of joy in inappropriate places without thought of who was looking? Though my feet dragged, my heart glimpsed a possibility where one dared to be and to express that being.
In childhood, I dared this. I would sit in the middle of a busy sidewalk to examine a dandelion or an ant or cry in front of company to protest something I didn’t like. As a teen, I lost this freedom, submerging it to a craving to be like others, to be accepted, to be the daughter of someone who walked their cart down the grocery aisle.
My mother addressed the world with humor (“I like to generalize without specific knowledge.”) and quiet wisdom. She was the fixer, whether it was “kissing better” a scraped knee or advising how to handle a frisky boyfriend. When her father died, she comforted me, not shedding a tear on her own behalf, at least in my presence. I can’t remember her being upset or even angry. How can that be? In my memory she danced through life, beaming light on all those in her path.
Between making meals, making dresses, and shuffling me to ballet classes, horseback riding classes, and the library, she did significant things for the community. Those things earned her posthumous recognition, but from my self-centered perception, they were peripheral to her main job of “mother.”
Now that I am well into adulthood, and she is gone, I realize that she did not have the perfect, carefree life of my assumptions. I can only imagine her pains, but I learned from her that pain does not have to define my life—that I get to do that. I can dance down the grocery aisle.
T.K. is a retired police captain who writes books, which, like this blog, roam wherever her interest and imagination take her. Receive this blog in your email when a new essay, story or rambling is posted by putting your email under “Follow My Blog” in the upper right section of the page. Want a heads up on news about her writing and adventures (and receive two free short stories)? Click on image below. Thanks for stopping by!