A recent trip to Whole Foods tested my hypothesis that people in the suburbs are nicer. Bean quietly ate her mac and cheese while I happily dined on sushi. After five minutes or so, Bean held up her hands and shouted "All Done." She really should eat more, so I tried to spoon more gruel into her mouth to which she replied "No More!" I didn't feel like trying to have a food war in this lovely supermarket so I put a lid on the Mac and cheese and started cleaning up the table. Upon seeing this Bean frantically made the sign for "More" and shouted "More" which actually sounds more like "Moy!" And so I repeated trying to feed her more food only to have Bean throw her hands up in the air and say "All Done" again. Again, the food was put away, this time eliciting an angry "MORE!!!" response from Bean. Again, I tried in vain to feed her and she pushed the food away dramatically as if I were trying to give her arsenic laced lima beans. We've been doing this for ten minutes. Mama is all done and I try to quickly put the mac and cheese away while singing the ABCs.
Bean starts crying immediately. She lays her head softly on the table sobbing. She beats her little hands onto the table and when she doesn't get her mac and cheese, she lifts her head, pouts her lips and starts crying. Bean starts to try to climb down off the seat while I'm frantically trying to clean up our mess so we can exit the store without making eye contact with anyone else. She stands on the seat defiantly stomping her feet and lurching from side to side trying to get around me. I have one hand on her while my other arm is literally sweeping the entire table top into my purse.
Suddenly, an elderly woman appears at my table. I'm expecting her to say something about how I should take care of the baby or something like "In my day, we didn't let kids carry on like this in public." Instead she looks at me with eyes creased from years of mothering and asks "Why is this beautiful baby crying?" It's a fairly innocuous statement. All I want to do is crawl out of this Whole Foods without Bean turning into demon-tantrum child and I'm forced into pleasantries with a complete stranger. I reply tersely that Bean "is just being a baby." To which, this woman who has never met me or my child, says "She's just sad. Maybe she needs a cracker."
That's what my expression said. If you can visualize a startled, exhausted, confused face, that would be what I looked like at that precise moment.
I explained the little food/no food dance that Bean and I were previously playing. She nods her head and takes out a fresh box of crackers from her re-usable Whole Foods bags. She tells me that these are the best crackers in the whole wide world and that each of her grand kids, ages 3 to 8, enjoy them wholeheartedly. She goes on to tell me that they are made from whole wheat and sea salt so that they are actually good for you too and hands me the box to read. At this point, I think she's a cross between the witch from Hansel and Gretel and a Fairy Godmother. Bean has stopped crying and is now smiling pleasantly on my hip. The stranger opens the box up and looks first at me and says "May I?" At this point, I'm so confused by this random conversation that I reply meekly "Sure." She gives Bean a cracker and she eats it up. She then hands me three more and gives Bean another one. Then she hands me the whole box.
What? This is Whole Foods! That box of crackers is probably $4.99!!! I hurriedly explain that I haven't done my shopping yet and I can't possibly accept this. She thrusts the box on me and insists. I try to take out my wallet to pay her, hoping that I actually have cash. She says "No, No. Let me. Please." Finally, I give up. At this point, I'm making a scene instead of Bean. Then she disappears back inside the store and I sit down dumbfounded by this stranger's kindness.
Bean is licking the sea salt of her fingers and eating her sixth cracker by the time the random stranger returns. I see in her hand a package of Horizon American Cheese slices. She says "I bought these for your little girl. I took the package from the back. It expires July 2012. Now this is the best cheese in the whole world. All the kids love this cheese. " That cheese is usually anywhere from $5.99 to $6.99 a package. I stopped buying it because Bean stopped eating it and it's too expensive to just sit my dairy drawer. She hands the package to me and gets me a plastic knife because suddenly I'm all thumbs and can't open this shrink wrapped package of cheese. I give Bean a slice of cheese and silently pray for Bean to eat it and to not throw it on the floor which is what she is prone to do. Bean licks the entire slice of cheese and then takes a tiny nibble like a cartoon mouse.
I thank this woman profusely. She just shrugs it off, as if she is this nice every day, which she probably is. She tells me to have a good day. I thank her again. Bean smiles her big goofy grin and shouts "Buh Bye!" as she walks out the door.
Are people nicer in the suburbs? Probably not. But I for one, will certainly try to be a little nicer, a little kinder and little more open to people because of her.