You know how when you’re outside taking a stroll for your mental health, and you happen upon some tree trimmers as they toss full sized branches into the shredder, and it’s so LOUD you instantly cover your precious eardrums and scurry to cross the street in an effort to escape the assault of deafening noise that has taken over your once quiet life?
That’s what it’s like having all of my kids come home for the holidays - except it takes place inside my house…all day long.
There is only one sure way to take respite from this kind of racquet: exit the premises and go shopping for shit I don’t need at Walmart.
You read that right. This is me sending an S.O.S.
And I have learned something recently that I find amusing and seems to keep life interesting…God keeps putting people and/or experiences in my path like little breadcrumb lessons. For some folks, I’m sure these moments are monumental like watching a baby being born, or holding the sacred space of helping a loved one transition to go Home. For me, it happened at Walmart in the checkout line on December 23, 2021 during our collective second Pandemic Christmas.
The lady standing in front of me suddenly threw up her hands, turned towards me, and asked in an astonished voice, “Did you just see that guy? He just spit on the floor!”
She gestured to a man propped about 8 feet away from us leaning against the dollar candy bin, who was very most likely suffering from mental illness with his mask pulled down so he could efficiently dislodge his loogie.
Immediately, I was reminded of how much I love Whoppers. And also peanut M and M’s.
“Oh gosh, I missed it,” I answered a little disappointedly, as we watched a faithful Walmart employee suddenly appear with a trusty bucket and mop.
That scenario was the fire starter for a conversation between me and a total stranger as she loaded her groceries onto the conveyor belt. I learned that she would be having a “small gathering” with just her husband and two littles due to Covid. And how she really wished she could take the entire 2 weeks off for Christmas from work, but there was work stuff, and she was a supervisor, and well you know, work stuff. And I told her how I had just come back from Wisconsin, and that’s probably why I missed all the “spit” incident, because I was just so grateful to be home standing in line at Walmart buying stocking stuffers. As she completed her transaction, we bid our adieus, wishing one another a Merry Christmas.
When it was my turn to load my groceries onto the belt, an elderly woman waiting behind me gazed into my cart, and asked perplexed, “Are you gonna eat that pizza? How do you stay so slim if you eat that pizza?”
She thinks I am slim! Mental note: add her to the Christmas card list that I send out every decade.
I laughed, explaining that I would have some pizza, but mainly it was for my girls because I hate cooking. As I was placing 5 different scented Olay Body Washes on the belt (because Santa may procrastinate, but he smells real good), she gestured to her husband, and said, “He eats brussel sprouts (long pause for effect) RAW. Can you believe that?”
He just shrugged his shoulders like so sue me for eating vegetables. I said, “I love brussel sprouts,” and his eyes sort of lit up, like yea, I knew I wasn’t the only one. And she proceeded to tell me how they were opposite and that’s why they were still hitched many years later.
When my transaction was complete, I felt like I knew this couple: she with a fondness for ice cream, him with a hankering for some raw brussel sprouts.
Little breadcrumb lessons from my Walmart trip: Be present. Pay attention. Don’t judge. Remember to laugh. Bless others with your presence. Remember everyone has a story.
And once again I was reminded, God is a magician who shows up in others even in the Walmart checkout line.
May this holiday season leave you with an open heart to receive as much love as two bookend sisters...
Love Michelle Francois Walsh and Walmart shoppers everywhere