Birmingham

In the food court is a merry-go-round. There is a single-file line waiting to board the carousel. First in line is an older man. He has white hair, and he walks with an uneven gait. A young woman is holding his arm.

It’s a sunny day. The Birmingham Galleria Mall is busy. There are hundreds of people beneath the tall atrium. They have places to go and things to buy.

I am here with my wife, who is shopping for blue jeans at Old Navy.

Shopping for jeans with your wife is a dangerous gamble. In the Western world, the leading cause of divorce is shopping for blue jeans at Old Navy with your wife. Ranking second is chewing your food too loud.

It goes like this:

Your wife locks herself in the dressing room with eighty-seven pairs of jeans. While she tries them on, you, the husband, go to the designated detention area with other husbands.

Intermittently, you wife emerges from her room, modeling jeans that look exactly like the jeans she wore when she entered the store.

Then, she glances at her reflection and begins speaking in foreign tongues. She asks things like: “Does this chino inseam appear too constricting?”

And: “Do you think these boot-cuts too are too roomy on the calf region?”

We husbands have no idea what our wives are actually asking. This is why we often mumble. Because we know our words don’t really matter when it comes to blue jeans. Our wives will make their own decisions.

We know that by the end of the day our wives will have at least two emotional breakdowns, and likely leave the store without a single pair of blue jeans because they hate blue jeans and they wish blue jeans would’ve never been invented and they hate anyone who wears blue jeans including members of Congress, anyone below age thirty, and Cher.

And instead of buying jeans, our wives end up getting something like a “cute little cardigan that was on clearance.”

Then everyone goes out for ice cream. The end.

The best thing a guy can do is give his wife a credit card and fake the flu.

Which is what I am doing. I am in the food court, waiting on her.

In the food court is a merry-go-round. There is a single-file line waiting to board the carousel. First in line is an older man. He has white hair, and he walks with an uneven gait. A young woman is holding his arm.

He points to the carousel and says, “Looky, Helen! Horesy! A horsey!”

The young woman says, “That’s right, a horsey. You gonna ride the horsey?”

The old man’s eyes light up. He claps. He drools on himself. She dries him with a napkin.

“I wanna ride it, Helen,” he says. “But do you think it’s safe?”

“I think it’s safe,” she says.

“But what if it isn’t safe? Will you save me?”

“I’ll stand beside you.”

“You promise, Helen? Don’t lie.”

“I promise.”

The security guard guides the man to the horse. The man has a hard time moving his feet very fast.

The young woman helps the man into the saddle and buckles his seatbelt. When the merry-go-round starts, the old man begins clapping again.

The music plays. He is waving at people. He is laughing. The carousel turns in slow circles, and it’s hard to take your eyes off the beautiful man riding the horse.

“I love you, Helen!” I overhear him say.

Also in the dining area is a birthday party. The birthday girl is nine years old. Her name is Meredith. Her family moved here from Atlanta six months ago. She’s been homesick ever since.

This morning, six of her friends drove over from Atlanta to surprise her.

“It’s only a two-hour drive,” says one kid’s mother. “We know how hard this year’s been for Meredith, just wanted to make her happy.”

Mission accomplished.

Just behind the birthday table is a family of Hispanics, seated shoulder-to-shoulder. I count seventeen of them. The people bow their heads before they eat.

A silver-haired man stands and speaks in Spanish, eyes closed. His voice is strong. His words are the rhythm of prayer.

When he says, “Amen,” those at the table make the Sign of the Cross. I have no idea what he said, but if there have ever been more reverent words, I’ve never heard them.

Then, the family is interrupted by singing.

“Happy Birthday” is the tune. It is a rendition sung by nine-year-olds. It only takes a few seconds for the food court to join the singing.

Soon, the older man who rode the carousel is singing, too. So are the Hispanics. And so am I.

Young Meredith is bright red in the face.

Our chorus is followed by light applause.

Then, I see my wife exiting Old Navy. She is carrying a shopping bag. When I ask if she found any blue jeans, she frowns.

“No,” she says. “But they had this cute little cardigan on clearance. You wanna get some ice cream?”

Life is beautiful.

Forgive me, Lord, for the times I forget to notice it.

19 comments

  1. Sandi in FL. - October 16, 2018 7:39 am

    A day in the life of Sean is always worth writing about, for you meet and talk to some of the most interesting people! What flavor of ice cream did you buy?

    Reply
  2. Nancy Rogers - October 16, 2018 9:13 am

    And I love you Helen! How beautiful. Thanks for the reminder.

    Reply
  3. Kelly - October 16, 2018 9:42 am

    Laughing out loud and smiling this morning! Life is beautiful! Thank you!

    Reply
  4. Roxanne - October 16, 2018 10:42 am

    And instead of buying jeans, our wives end up getting something like a “cute little cardigan that was on clearance.”

    NAILED IT! (Speaking as a woman who currently has no jeans to wear.)

    Reply
  5. Joy Johnson - October 16, 2018 11:43 am

    You make my day by starting it with a smile. Thank you for sharing

    Reply
  6. Glenda - October 16, 2018 11:47 am

    Smiles here in Chobee town, love you Sean!

    Reply
  7. LeAnne Martin - October 16, 2018 12:02 pm

    Sean, I am currently on a hunt for jeans at Old Navy that are neither too constricting or too roomy, and I kid you not, last month, I bought a cute little cardigan on clearance in “berry pink.” Your wife and I should go to Old Navy together, while you and my husband hang out in the food court. Chocolate ice cream with hot fudge is my favorite treat anytime–whether it’s to console myself that no jeans in the world will fit to my liking or to celebrate the one pair that actually does. Sounds like a great day to me. 🙂

    Reply
  8. Linda K - October 16, 2018 1:53 pm

    Thank You for the reminder – – Life IS Beautiful !! With all the ugliness in the world, your words are a bright spot this morning – Thank you.

    Reply
  9. Debbie Galladora - October 16, 2018 2:24 pm

    Happy tears. By the way, you could almost turn this around to shopping for jeans with my husband! 🤣

    Reply
  10. Jamie Bliss - October 16, 2018 2:36 pm

    Perfect.

    Reply
  11. Edna B. - October 16, 2018 2:47 pm

    This is a wonderful story to start my day with. Thank you. I’ve never been to Old Navy, but I think I just might try them. You have a wonderful day, hugs, Edna B.

    Reply
  12. Gloria Knight - October 16, 2018 2:55 pm

    Just sat here for nearly an hour reading your stories which take me back to south GA where I grew up. You remind me a lot of Lewis Grizzard who wrote wonderful things about REAL people until he died.Keep on writing…It’s almost like going back home.

    Reply
  13. Susan Swiderski - October 16, 2018 3:00 pm

    I suspect you’re one of those rare people who always cherishes the beauty of life. What’s more, you help us appreciate and cherish it, too. That’s a real gift.

    Reply
  14. asfaith - October 16, 2018 3:25 pm

    ….and, Sean, NEVER TRY TO HANG WALLPAPER with Jamie! Divorce court will be imminent! Te quiero, mi hijo.

    Bridget

    Reply
  15. Kathy Wolfe - October 16, 2018 3:53 pm

    If I ever see you “out and about” I’m gonna hug you!!!

    Reply
  16. Jack Quanstrum - October 16, 2018 3:54 pm

    🙂

    Reply
  17. rantsandravescom - October 16, 2018 7:38 pm

    Happiness is often seeing the joy around you in other people. And if you want to be really happy,do something for someone else without any expectation of return. 🤗

    Reply
  18. Sandy nickel - October 16, 2018 11:10 pm

    You are kind, deep, keenly aware of emotions of the heart and I am blessed to have found your precious blog. Thank you for the love you share.

    Reply
  19. Jack Darnell - October 17, 2018 1:27 am

    You sly rascal. i had to get 70 before i could get relief! And yes, Life is beautiful. You seemto notice more than most

    Reply

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