I was in Target the other afternoon for one thing, meaning the second I walked in I suddenly felt like I needed to buy ALL the things.
As I was walking down an aisle silently praising myself for not grabbing a shopping basket -- if I only grab what I can carry, it cuts down on the damages -- I saw a little girl with sun-bleached blonde hair by the toys.
She looked to be about 4 or 5, but then again, I'm a horrible judge of age when it comes to kids. She could be 12 with a criminal record for all I know, but she was little.
A second later, a boy who looked to be her slightly older, blonde brother came and told her that their mom was waiting. She put down the toy and clomped her way through the store in her Hello Kitty boots.
I ran into the kids again a few minutes later with a woman who was unmistakably their mother. An older daughter and a baby added to the mix, all of them chatting and shopping -- mom telling the boy that they had chips at home and the baby babbling happily from her perch in the cart.
For some weird reason, I couldn't stop looking, which wasn't hard to do considering they ended up being those people that I kept running into every single aisle.
But I was struck.
This will sound weird coming from me, as I know that I never want kids, but the beauty of that seemingly average family scene really touched me in some way. Maybe it was the identical blonde hair or the fact that the mom seemed like one of those moms that the neighborhood kids would all like. Maybe it was the way the kids seemed so fun or the fact that they were well-behaved.
I don't know what it was, but something just drew me back in. So the next time that our paths crossed and we did that polite, "Yes, we've just run into each other again and I'll give that fake smile once more" thing, I let her know.
"I'm not a weirdo or anything," I said as we passed once again, which is always a good way to start. "But you have a beautiful family -- and they're all so polite, as well!"
With the baby moved to her hip, she looked stunned, as if I'd just told her the little blonde midget walking through all the toys did have a criminal record.
"Oh my gosh," she said as she smiled a bit shyly. "You don't know just how much that means. We have our moments, but yes, we truly are blessed. Thank you so much for that. Really, thank you."
At that, the baby began shrieking, the mom made a joke about how we had cursed things and we went our separate ways, the older kids politely not making any comments about the crazy lady with her arms full of ALL THE THINGS who refused to just grab a cart.
But along with unnecessary items, I also had a strong sense of peace. I know I will never walk into Target as a mom. And while I have not one iota of regret or envy, that doesn't mean I can't appreciate the beauty of what I don't want -- or extend my admiration for those who chose paths that I'll never walk down.
My path is mine. Her path is hers.
And that day, I was glad that they crossed.
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