Monday, April 07, 2008

In which the year's at the spring, the lark's on the wing and all is right(ish) with the world...

By Friday of last week, I was a wee bit stressed. In case the spinning head and shrill tone escaped anyone's notice.

Luckily, Friday is followed up by that miracle of time known as The Weekend.

Our weekend was healing. Other than a Sunday we dedicated to fun, I think the thing that stands out most are three women who contributed something along the lines of restoring my faith in humanity.

Random Acts of Kindness

Act I

The woman was behind the Starbucks counter at Target. She was probably ten years older than me, at most. I'd been dragged into the Starbucks by a wailing Persistence, and I was exhausted straight through my spirit by incessant creative parenting, power struggles, and daughters on the edge.

"That milk!" Persistence shriek-wailed, "THAT MILK! Nilla MILK!"

Our circuit through the deli-produce-bakery area had been going badly. Persistence is always hungry and thirsty, and a carton of milk will keep her happy through the store. The cooler by the front entrance usually is stocked with milk, but that day, of all days, it was empty. Persistence took this as a personal insult. These days, nearly everything is a personal insult to Persistence, and personal insults require meltdown tantrums. We were one centimeter away from that. I was eager to move on, telling her we'd look at the end of the bread aisle for animal cracker boxes.

However, with no explanation, she belligerently kept running back and pointing and shrieking at the deli case area. I finally walked back over with her, and she finally communicated that she thought we ought to check Starbucks for the milk.

And there it was.

I was so irritated. If only I'd stopped and stooped down to ask her why earlier, rather than engaging in pleading with her to come on and annoyance when she didn't. If only she'd used her words to tell me why. If only Target hadn't moved the milk inside Starbucks.

I plucked a milk from the case, thought twice, and grabbed a second one for Patience. I plunked down the milks on the counter, trying to juggle my attention between the lady behind the counter asking me questions and taking my money along with a persistent Persistence who doesn't take a one second break between finding things about life, the universe and the world that make her unhappy right now.

"What's that?" I asked the lady, who had already repeated herself twice over the din I call daughter.

"I said, she's really cute!"

"Huh? Her? Oh yeah, right, she's very cute, and sweet, sometimes," I said, pausing to ask Persistence to chill out for a second so I could pay for her milk, then I muttered, "Not that anyone could tell right now."

But the lady heard me.

"Ah. Yes. She's in a transition phase, huh?" she said. Simply. That's it. Just those words. She didn't say them with pity, sympathy, infuse any meaning, or judgment.

She simply...understood.

The world seemed to stop and calm down. I didn't hear all the noise.

I looked at the lady and asked, to be sure I heard right, "Excuse me?"

"Transition phase, she's in one of those transition phases. Mine always acted just like that when they had a transition phase. They're 18 and 21, now, and they still do, a little bit," she said, then smiled, one mom to another, when the age of your child doesn't matter a bit.

"Yes, both my girls are," I said, "In a transition phase, I mean. And yes, it's just like this, every time. I never know who or what will come out the other end, but it's usually pretty amazing. Once you get through it, of course," I said, then smiled too, one mom to another.

"Here you are," she said, handing me my change, receipt and both milks, "Have a nice day."

I smiled and thanked her, and thanked her for understanding. I felt immensely grateful---I, who am so used to either being ignored or sent censorial glares (or worse, told what I ought to be doing) when in my mom role in public, was so grateful that this person didn't judge or pity me, but simply understood.

She looked down at Persistence, and in her calm voice, she said, "You too, big girl, you have a nice day."

Persistence, who is so used to either being ignored by adults or sent scathing looks, also froze, and, I think, in gratitude, stopped whining, and smiled at the lady.

I'd like to say that our shopping trip and day were perfect and lovely from that point forward, but that'd would be what you call taking artistic license.

However, I can say our day was better.

***********************

All of this is to introduce this week's Hump Day Hmm topic, inspired by Andrea of garden of nna mmoy. She asked that we discuss fate---we have discussed fate from a couple of angles already but it's been a while (one last April, as it happens! Also in June of last year, and maybe another time I don't recall...) and there are so many angles to fate.

Consider these questions: does the universe (God) prescribe an order? do things happen sometimes too coincidentally to be coincidental? is there a design? how is it that sometimes things come to us, just when we need them most?

Tell a story, discuss theory...whatever you'd like.

And check back here later for Act II of Random Acts of Kindness!

*********

Then, because my humor can be puerile, but also because my friend Jenny encourages this sort of thing, and I know she'd enjoy this:

It will probably not be a shock to anyone that my title is from Robert Browning's poem/drama Pippa Passes.

I used the most famous part:
The year's at the spring,
And day's at the morn;
Morning's at seven;
The hill-side's dew-pearled;
The lark's on the wing;
The snail's on the thorn;
God's in his Heaven -
All's right with the world!

But. When I pulled up the quote, I ran across a tidbit I had completely forgotten!
Besides the oft-quoted line "God's in his Heaven/All's right with the world!" above, the poem contains an amusing error rooted in Robert Browning's unfamiliarity with vulgar slang. Right at the end of the poem, in her closing song, Pippa calls out the following:

But at night, brother Howlet, far over the woods,
Toll the world to thy chantry;
Sing to the bats’ sleek sisterhoods
Full complines with gallantry:
Then, owls and bats, cowls and twats,
Monks and nuns, in a cloister’s moods,
Adjourn to the oak-stump pantry!

"Twat" both then and now is vulgar slang for a woman's external genitals. When the editors of the Oxford English Dictionary inquired decades later where Browning had picked up the word, he directed them to a rhyme from 1660 that went thus: "They talk’t of his having a Cardinall’s Hat/They’d send him as soon an Old Nun’s Twat." Browning apparently missed the vulgar joke and took "twat" to mean part of a nun's habit, pairing it in his poem with a priest's cowl.


Copyright 2008 Julie Pippert
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23 comments:

Mayberry said...

Excuse me. There are Targets with Starbucks inside??!?!

I was so distracted by that little tidbit I almost missed the goodness of the rest of the post. Both the lovely moment of understanding AND the Olde English Humore.

flutter said...

Better days, really are better, aren't they?

I happen to know your saturday coming up will be fun :)

Jenny, the Bloggess said...

Hee! You said "twat".

Sorry. I'm in a transition stage.

(I really am.)

Kyla said...

I love it when people are so unexpectedly kind and human.

That poem is quite hilarious.

Gwen said...

Stop making me jealous with your spring flower pictures right this minute! That's my transitional child's current problem--everyone is trying to make her jealous or is jealous of her. Maybe I should teach her to say twat and all will be right with her world. :)

Yay for nice Starbucks' employees ... and at Target! You must live in the South. ;)

jen said...

a healing weekend? wait, what's that? how does that go?

Robert said...

Mayberry's comment reminds me of one of my college professor's jokes: there's a new law in California... Starbucks is not allowed to locate inside of Starbucks. (they are EVERYWHERE!)

Great story, and I'll have my Hump Day Humm for you rather quickly, I'm sure. I know just what I like to write about coincidences.

Melissa said...

The SB in target has saved me on more than one occasion. Mine is kind enough to split the frappacinos into two cups for me. :)

And you gotta watch those old english poems. Stuff sneaks up on you in them.

painted maypole said...

those shared mom moments are priceless. i'll never forget the woman on the airplane who said to me, as i tried to soothe a crying infant MQ "She's so cute" and smiled. Smiled. AT the mother with the crying baby. it was perfect.

Cathy said...

The gift of understanding -- truly priceless. Especially when it's offered at one of those moments.

My mom (who also lives in Texas) was just talking this weekend about the Starbucks in her Target.

*sigh*

womaninawindow said...

I love those moments of receiving the unexpected where you least expect them!

Suki said...

Lovely :).

Thankfully Robert Browning isn't Old English, he's just old english, lol! I HATE Ealdne Aenglisc("Old English" in Old English).
And yes, Browning is fun.

LaskiGal said...

Oh, that expression of "I totally understand what you are going through and I'm with you," that passes on another mother's face is pure beauty.

Your mention of Browning just made me miss teaching the Victorian period, or heck, teaching in general . . . just a bit.

liv said...

have i said it before? i love persistence.

Family Adventure said...

It's reminiscent of all my travelling solo on the plane with our boys. I always prayed that I'd be seated next to a person with an 'I understand' expression on their face.

But you know what was odd? I most often found those WITHOUT kids to be the kindest, while those with older children very often wore expressions of 'My child NEVER did that'.

Glad your Friday was better :)

Heidi

we_be_toys said...

Girl, I remember it well, both the 3 year old and the 5 year old phases! I was starting to get to the end of my rope with the whining and crying, and wondering what I was doing wrong that they were like this. When I realized it wasn't me, it was just something they had to go through, it was a lot easier to let it go.
Hang in there honey - you're due for a change soon, and then its smooth sailing until the TEEN years! (cue fateful music and maniacal laughter)

Beck said...

Cowls and twats, hahahaah. Poor Robert Browning.

Beck said...

Cowls and twats, hahahaah. Poor Robert Browning.

Kathryn said...

We have a Starbuck's in our Target here too. :)
Thank heavens for that dear woman. If only more people were understanding like that.
I love the term she used to. Transitional. That is exactly what it is. Brilliant!

The poem? That is a bit on an oops, huh? heh heh

jennifer h said...

Transitional state, indeed. I know how a day like that can improve with just a kind moment.

I'm laughing about the Browning poem.

slouching mom said...

talk about poets living in ivory towers! heh.

(i'm jealous of your upcoming weekend, too!)

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Christine said...

oh the transition phase! when i first realized what this was my life totally changed. ok, so the little buggers still drive me crazy but i am better now at figuring out why. glad that woman showed grace to you that day, julie.