We almost didn't stop that morning. We were late to work and daycare, as is becoming our daily ritual, and my son was peacefully watching Elmo in the backseat.
But I needed to stop. This particular morning was hard. There's no way you could have known that we were coming off a weekend vacation with family and I was wishing I was still in the comfort of those who know and love me best instead of making the hour-plus commute into the office. You couldn't have possibly imagined the internal negotiation or vehicle maneuvering that finally landed us in the turning lane off the main road and in the direction of my beloved Starbucks (against my better judgement).
What I'm sure you did notice was my son's excitement at being out of the car; how he made it a point to touch every coffee display inside; the way he shirked back at the thought of holding my hand, preferring instead, to wander on his own.
I ordered my drink while he did laps around me. You and all the other mothers in line smiled sympathetically. I've come to appreciate those knowing glances. It's like a secret society that understands each other without having to explain.
"I love his hat! It's so adorable," you offered warmly.
I'm sorry for mumbling a half-hearted response while trying to focus carefully on each task I was juggling. Forgive me if I came across rude. My only intent was to leave Starbucks with my wallet, my keys, and my mind, because I suck at multi-tasking and yet I'm doing it all the time.
I was in such a rush, I didn't get to thank you for what you did next.
So here's a belated, but sincere thank you for sitting on the floor near my son while we waited for my coffee. Thank you for not caring about how you looked to all the other customers in business clothes with important places to go. Thank you for taking the receipt from his hand and making it into a paper airplane, explaining step-by-step. Thank you for launching it directly into the lady standing to my left who did not wear a sympathetic smile. Twice :-)
But more than the pure joy you evoked in my son, thank you for reminding me that he is a blessing, not an inconvenience. Your words that morning and the sheer happiness on his face from the thoughtfulness of a stranger gave me a bigger boost than my caramel brûlée latte ever could.
Who knows? Maybe we'll stop for coffee more often. And if I ever see you again, the next latte's on me.