Freeport, Florida, 8:39 P.M.—Publix. It’s halftime for the National Championship. I’m here to buy a sandwich. I just left a party at my friend’s house.
Publix is quiet. I’m tired. I’m hungry. The food at the party was god-awful. My pal tried making Mexican cheese dip that tasted microwave-melted fertilizer.
So I’m here.
There’s a woman ahead of me at the sandwich counter. She has a son sleeping in a stroller. He’s no baby. In fact, he’s not even a small kid, he looks like a fifth-grader.
She’s wearing a “Roll Tide” sweatshirt.
And this makes us best friends.
So, we chat football.
While the young man at the counter makes her sandwich, she talks. She tells me she’s recently moved back to town. She was raised here, but moved away when she got married.
I asked what brought her back.
“My divorce,” she said. “I’m starting over.”
Then, we’re interrupted by her son.
No sooner does he open his eyes than he’s screaming loud enough to affect the climate. He flails his arms. Cries. Kicks. She tries to hush him.
He won’t have it.
He throws a plastic toy at her. It hits her square in the face. Hard.
She doesn’t react. She only looks at me and says, “He didn’t mean that, it’s just past his bedtime.”
She picks the kid up, holding him like a newborn. The boy is almost as tall as she is. His legs are limp.
Once her sandwiches are made and wrapped, her boy has calmed. She places him back in the stroller. She thanks the man behind the counter.
Then she looks at me. “I know this is weird, but would you mind watching my son while I go to the bathroom? He’s finally relaxed, I don’t wanna disturb him.”
She walks toward the restrooms with her hands over her face.
She’s only gone a few minutes. When she gets back, her cheeks are wet, her eyes are bloodshot. And I sincerely doubt she did anything in the restroom but cry.
“Thanks,” she says, sniffing. “Sorry about my son.”
“Roll tide,” she says. “I hope we win.”
And she’s gone.
Dear God, I know you’re busy. I know you’ve got folks tugging on your apron from all over the world. I don’t know what’s going on with that child. But if you have a moment…
Bless the hell out of that woman.