I was at the YMCA with the kids on Monday changing Audrey's diaper on a bench in the middle of the lobby. This bench sits just outside the studio area where a group of (mainly) middle-aged women were taking a dance class. At that precise moment, they were dancing to Jeff Buckley's version of Hallejuia, and a woman stopped in the middle of her dancing to come out to the lobby to see me. She very kindly walked over to our bench and said:
woman: I just had to stop and tell you that there is light coming from you.
me: oh! well, thank you!
woman: it's just, such a lovely light, it's almost like...
and here she touches my face (I'm not kidding) and has tears in her eyes
woman: Mary and child. it's clear you have so much love for these kids.
me: well, what a nice thing to say, thank you!
Merry Christmas, lady, seriously, that was the sweetest thing someone could have said. However, this lady did not see me but two hours later dragging a kicking and screaming Seancito from the Babies R Us sidewalk to the car. This lady did not see him wrestle himself free of my arms long enough to manuever one arm out of his winter coat while one arm stayed in. She also did not, then, see me when I grabbed Sean around the waist while he twisted and screamed in the parking lot, flinging his body upside down, kicking his feet around my head and nearly passing out because of his lack of oxygen to the brain. I've had to ask him recently to breathe during these tantrums for fear of him holding his breath too long. But Merry Christmas all the same. This woman was sweet as can be, and she highlighted for me a quiet moment where I was appreciating my time with my kids. For this I am truly grateful.
However, in the same spirit of strangers approaching strangers: it does seem like the holidays encourage more talking amongst those who do not know each other. I for one would talk to strangers any day of the week, 365 days a year, but this is not the norm, I realize. Especially here in Minnesota, I'm learning that many strangers do not like to be spoken to out of the blue, so I try to tone down my extrovertedness in public places. It's a cross I bear. Today, though, waiting in line at a store, two women behind me decided to strike up conversation. Again, they must be filled with the holiday spirit and therefore want to reach out to their neighbor - goodwill to all, right? This conversation, unsolicited by me, I might add, went something like this:
woman #1: you have a lovely baby (referring to a sleeping Audrey in her carseat on the floor. When walking down the aisles, I would set Audrey down when I wanted to look at something, then pick up the heavy carseat/baby load when I was ready to move again. Seancito watched this pattern and decided to mimic me.... using his animal crackers box. I set Audrey down, he sets animal crackers down. I sway back and forth, he sways back and forth. I pick Audrey up, he picks animal crackers up. and so on...)
me: thank you.
Please note, I did not encourage the conversation beyond this point. I had to call upon my introvertedness, which does not exist, but rather it's a mask I sometimes wear. I'm not very good at it.
woman #1: (after a brief pause) my baby is 44 years old.
me: Oh, they say it goes by so fast.
In this instance, the "they" to which I refer is every single human being who's ever commented on the passage of time to me regarding children. This comes from people who have kids as well as people who don't have kids. I think this is an easy comment to fall back on. It's right up there with complaining about the weather - when you have nothing else to say, complain about the weather. When you have nothing else to say, tell young parents that it goes by so fast.
woman #1: it does. it does.
woman #2: (smiling at me) my baby is 23.
woman #1: boy or girl? (as if we're referring to children!? - let's check ourselves, we're talking about adults)
woman #2: well, the baby is a girl, but we also have a boy.
woman #1: mmm hmmm... and I bet one is more agreeable than the other?
woman #2: well...
woman #1: let me guess, the girl is more agreeable?
woman #2: well...
woman #1: because I tell you what, I can't get my boy to do anything for me. He won't even come over and cut my grass.
woman #2: actually they are both pretty good...
woman #1: and I put him through private school, too!
Woman #2 is awkwardly trying to avoid eye contact with woman #1. I HAVE STILL SAID NOTHING.
woman #1: (talking to me again, referring to Sean, his animal crackers, and Audrey, sleeping) well these two are well mannered enough, aren't they?
me: yes, they are good kids. really sweet kids.
[another long silence]
woman #1: did you hear about the woman on the news who put those two boys in a...what was it?...
woman #2: oh yes, I did, she put them in a...
woman #1: a CAGE. That's horrible. As punishment. That's horrible.
Thankfully at this precise moment I am called up to the cash register. I pick up the carseat, and Sean picks up his animal crackers. As we are exiting the store a couple minutes later, woman #1 catches my eye and says,
woman #1: now you have a good day.
me: thanks, you too.
woman #1: Merry Christmas.
me: and to you.
ARE YOU KIDDING ME? This is spreading good cheer? MERRY CHRISTMAS?? The things I have gained from this interaction are as follows:
1. spread Christmas cheer by striking up conversations with people in
line at the store. Regardless of the content of the conversation - and
regardless of the reciprocity - this is somehow creating goodwill
towards your neighbor.
2. within said conversation where content does not matter make
sure to bring up something awful - like abusing children - right in
front of young children. this is sure to be a hit with young mothers
3. expect that your girl children will be more agreeable than your boy children.
4. do not send your children to private school because they will never appreciate it. They are ungrateful creatures anyway.
5. expect that your boy children will cut your grass for you and if they don't, complain about it to people in public. Somehow, that karma will get back at your ungrateful boy children.
What I leave you with is this: if you're going to wish someone a Merry Christmas in the next couple weeks - or even just a simple Happy Holidays - I recommend going with the YMCA-dancing-class-lady. Perhaps it was the way the light was streaming through the windows at that moment, or maybe it was all the dancing she was doing that went to her head. Even if I didn't feel like the Blessed Virgin Mary (in that moment or any other - certainly not two hours later at Babies R Us), it was a human interaction that left me feeling serene, grateful, and peaceful. That's what we're going for here, people. Then we have example #2. Don't do that. Don't ramble on complaining about your ungrateful boy children to strangers. If nothing else, just say Merry Christmas.