I was in the greeting card aisle when I heard the thud, like a melon on a sidewalk, followed by the piercing screams of the toddler. That’s when it happens, folks. They stand up in the five seconds when a mother’s back is turned. First, a thud, and then screaming.
Generally, because I am an older mom with boundary issues, I have a tendency to try to head off Melon on the Sidewalk grocery cart accidents. You could even say that I am hyper-vigilant where kid melons are concerned. It drives my son bonkers in the same way that my hanging on to the front of the shopping cart while he pushes it does. Because, well, he IS in his twenties and drives in rush hour traffic and IS perfectly capable of pushing a grocery cart without crashing. I realize this, and still catch myself doing it. Old mom habits die hard.
When I see a kid standing up in a shopping cart, I can’t control the impulse to tell the kid to sit down. My son usually tries to Shush!! me before I can walk up to a stranger’s child to try to prevent a catastrophe. He has even been known to body block me in the frozen food aisle while he hisses under his breath,“No, Mom! It’s not your problem! It’s not even your kid! Mind your own business!” as he hustles me past the accident waiting to happen near the cauliflower.
I watched as she scooped up her little guy to check for blood. The odds were in her favor. Aside from a lot of wailing and rubbing of his head, his brains still appeared to be where they belonged. Once Mom knew this, she set him back in the seat of the cart and began yelling in that shaky voiced way that a flood of adrenaline often makes the mothers of melon-headed toddlers yell. “I TOLD you to SIT down! I’ve TOLD you and TOLD you! See? This is what happens when you don’t listen to me! Maybe NOW you’ll listen when I tell you to SIT DOWN!”
Mothering. It’s grim business, some days. I’ve been there.
Today is my son’s birthday. He was born twenty five years ago. I was not there, but we both know it doesn’t really matter. I am his memory keeper. When he was two, I caught him by one ankle right before his own melon hit the floor in a grocery store. He does not remember this. That is my job. I keep the memories of his first photos, first steps, and first stitches, too. The memory of him riding a shiny, black, Schwinn down the sidewalk without training wheels for the first time. The determined, dark haired, little boy in a purple t-shirt, glove outstretched, standing in the bright green outfield on June mornings. Power Rangers and Pokemon cards and pandas. Braces (twice) and proms and high school and college graduations. The moves, moves, and more moves from one college apartment to the next. Millions of moments, mundane, maddening, and magnificent, in the life of a small boy who grew into a man.
I am this man’s mother. His memory keeper. The one who gets to celebrate all his victories. The mom who never stopped trying to break every fall.
The mom who never will.