A few days ago I was sitting in the parking lot of a local discount store waiting on a friend who was inside shopping. I was trying to make myself read a book but was more interested in things going on around me. I began making up stories about the shoppers coming and going based on their expressions and the way they carried themselves. I observed everything from bouncy to slow and painful, from whistling to frowning; some folks looked up as they walked and some looked down and some stared straight ahead as if in a trance.
An unhappy couple attempting to start their truck captured my attention. Oh, the cursing and blaming and disrespect. They were wrong for a story because one of them would’ve had to die. I’d been hoping for something romantic that would end in kissing or at least without a murder. It seemed like a bad day for happy in that parking lot.
That was until I noticed three adorable girls waiting at the end of a vehicle two cars over from mine. One wore tights, a tutu, and tap shoes. Guessing, I’d say she was ten. She was irresistible, this little dancer, and deserved an entire story to herself, but she wasn’t alone. Her younger sister stood by her side wearing black patent leather Mary Janes and a stylish dress. Little Sister constantly checked out her shiny shoes, turning them this way and that. I was reminded of a time, so long ago, when I had done the same thing with my new shoes.
The little girl with the new Mary Janes held the hand of a toddler while they waited. There was no whining or crying or complaining. Little Dancer twirled in place, Little Sister continued admiring her shoes, and the toddler laughed and babbled at passing birds and other things only toddlers understand. Each girl was in her own world, but they still seemed mindful that they were in a parking lot and were looking out for each other.
Less than a minute had passed when the mom came around the side of the vehicle hefting a baby carrier. She saw me watching and smiled. She must have realized I was admiring her girls. I was also thinking about how much care and energy it takes to be a good parent. And I was feeling nostalgic for my own little girl. In a flash those small children would be grown. I don’t believe young mothers realize that, but that’s probably because they’re too busy to think about it.
The sound of laughter drew my attention across the parking lot to a playground where fathers were swinging their youngsters. That’s something you don’t see every day—fathers minding their small children. The dads appeared to be having as much fun as the kids. I wondered if they were a two-dad family or if the men were brothers or brothers-in-law or neighbors or strangers. The possibilities are endless with or without my imagination.
Then the animated jabbering of three teenage girls drew me away from the playground and back to the parking lot. Their chattering stopped in mid-story, and one of them said, “Oh!”
They had seen what I failed to. An elderly man with a loaded shopping cart was struggling to get his things to his car. “Wait, wait!” they called as they ran up to him. “Let us help you.”
One took the cart and the other two took his arms to steady him. The young women continued chattering and it was difficult to tell if they were talking to the man or continuing their tales. It didn’t matter. They had stepped up when they were needed and made an old man’s day—and mine.
When my friend came out with her load of purchases, I said, “My faith in humanity has been restored.”
“Here?” She seemed amazed.
Yes, there. I never saw the romance I’d hoped for, and there was no kissing, but I did see love in action three times and that was enough.