I pull into the designated parking space at the supermarket. My vehicle is idling. This is what you call “touchless” grocery shopping.
This pandemic has brought a lot of heartache and misery. But, let us never forget, this pandemic also brought us touchless grocery shopping, wherein store employees magically fill your car with groceries while you listen to Willie Nelson on the radio. It’s quite wonderful.
My back passenger door opens.
“Can you pull forward a little, sir?” says the happy young woman in the surgical mask.
Sir. I hate it when people call me sir. Especially young people. It makes me feel like Fred Mertz.
I inch my vehicle forward until she says stop. She is late twenties, long dreadlocks, and the personality of a cherub. “You just want them in the back seat, sir?”
“In the back will be perfect,” I say.
She gets busy loading. “You having a good day so far, sir?”
“I’m alright. How about you?”
“Oh, yes, sir. I’m having maybe my best day ever.”
“Best ever? You only get one of those.”
“Well, I’m pregnant,” she blurts out. And I get the feeling she just needs to tell someone. “I just found out a few hours ago, before work. My boyfriend and I are gonna have a baby. I’m so happy.”
She loads several more bags onto my floorboards. I am observing her through my rear view mirror. I can tell by her squinty eyes that she’s smiling.
“Congratulations. You must be so excited.”
“Oh, you have no idea, I wasn’t supposed to be able to get pregnant. I was told I’d never be pregnant. I have a bunch of medical issues.”
She bear hugs a sack of dog food that weighs about as much as a government helicopter. I suddenly wish this pregnant woman wasn’t lifting such heavy things. My reflex is to lift these things for her, but she instructs me to stay put; store policy is for customers to stay in their cars.
“Congratulations,” I offer again, simply because I don’t know what else to say.
“Thanks you, sir. I turned twenty-nine this year, and my boyfriend and I were thinking about adopting, but now… Well, I’m so excited.”
She loads a five-gallon container of kitty litter that weighs more than a pallet of wet cinder blocks into my backseat. This girl has more upper arm strength than the late Sonny Liston.
“I’m a little nervous,” she says. “Because, I miscarried once. That was how come the doctor told me I couldn’t have kids.”
“Wow. A miscarriage. That must’ve been hard.”
“Oh, it was. I grieved. It killed me. And there wasn’t nothing I could do but give my baby a name and funeral.”
The young woman walks to the other side of my vehicle, swings open the door, and loads more heavy groceries.
“What did you name her?”
“The baby you lost. What was her name?”
“Abigail. That’s lovely.”
“Yeah, it means ‘my father’s joy.’ Because even before she was born, Abby made me and my boyfriend so happy.” She pauses. I watch through my mirror. If I’m not mistaken she has something stuck in her eye.
I ask the young woman if she’s announced her pregnancy to her friends yet.
“Well, I told my mom, and—oh, my God—it was funny, ‘cause she started screaming on the phone. I mean, literally, screaming. She’s so excited. I’ve already had a hundred texts from everyone my mom has told.”
She lifts more bags. “I know my mom is hardcore praying for this baby to be healthy and strong, so I just bet she’s already called everyone and told them to start praying too. She probably has half of Georgia praying for this child.”
“Is that where you’re from?” I asked.
I wish she’d quit calling me that.
She lifts an enormous sack of potting soil and slams it into the back. It makes me want to cringe. It’s hard watching an expectant young woman swing heavy things around in a manner akin to a professional wrestler.
I say, “Aren’t you concerned about lifting all this heavy stuff, now that you’re… With child?”
“Nope,” she says. “Know why? Because today is my last day. My boyfriend and I decided that I was gonna take some maternity leave. Can you believe it? Me. I never thought I’d live to see the day.
“Already broke the news to my manager. He offered to transfer me to an easier job, but I said no, I wanna take care of myself and give my baby every chance it can get.”
She closes my back hatch. She is finished loading groceries. The young woman comes around to the driver’s window to give me a copy of my receipt. She is out of breath.
I try to give her a tip but she holds her hands upward and says, “No, sir. We ain’t allowed to take no tips.”
“But God bless you anyway. Give that money to someone who needs it.”
“Well, I just wanted you know how happy I am for you. That’s all.”
“Thanks. You know, it’s been such a bad year. But it just goes to show you that everything can change in a couple seconds. Like when I woke up this morning, I was just another girl, waking up and going to work, but now… I mean. Now I’m not just another girl anymore, I’m a real mom. And it just doesn’t get any better than that, now does it?”
No, sir, it doesn’t.