I do not like to wait.
Tired and impatient, I shuffle from foot to foot, craning my neck to see what the holdup could possibly be. I’m in line at Target at 9 pm on a Sunday. This is apparently not Target’s Happy Hour. I neglected to get a cart, and (as always happens in Target) have about five more items than I planned or needed. I shift them in my arms, hoping to maintain the pile’s balance. Thankfully, a cashier appears and opens another register. The family ahead of me defects to her lane; I follow.
And that’s when I notice them, and finally pay attention to the very specific items in their overflowing cart.
They are a couple, around my age (which I would describe as perpetually young at heart with grey around the temples; the kind of people who tell stories about the 90’s and preface them with “a few years ago…”). They are loading their items onto the belt, talking in hushed tones as they lift out a high chair, then a car seat/infant carrier. They plop down cases of diapers in two different sizes, then cans of formula, crib sheets, wipes, pacifiers, bottles and burp cloths. The man pulls a pack and play box from underneath the cart. As he does, the woman removes the last two items – a multi-pack of footed jammies, and a stuffed frog attached to a small, fuzzy blanket. She brushes her fingers across the satin edge of the blanket, seeming to sigh and smile all at once. The man places a hand between her shoulder blades, and they watch in silence as each item is swiped past the barcode scanner. Ah, yes. THIS I recognize.
I interject; I can’t help myself – “Someone coming home soon?” I ask carefully, as tenderly as I can. After a pause, he answers, “We hope so.” I offer a smile, and a nod. I don’t say anything else.
I so badly want to tell them that I’ve been there.
I want to tell them that my husband and I stood in line at that same Target four years ago, late at night on a Thursday. We had a cart full of the same items (times two), and a handwritten list of the essentials. We were hopeful and excited and overwhelmed, all at once.
I want to tell them how nervous – how scared, really - I was during our similar shopping trip. We were going in blind, buying the necessary items (and only the necessary ones) for babies we hadn’t yet met, and couldn’t (and shouldn’t) consider “ours.” We would save the receipt, just in case.
We wouldn’t talk about the “just in case.”
I want to tell them that the long, broken road that led us to Target at 10 pm on that Thursday in February was hard sometimes, but that it would all be worth it in the end.
I want to ask her if, she, too, had a moment where she asked God, “Will this ever really happen?” I want to tell her about the morning that I broke down crying in the car during my 10-minute commute to work, moved to tears by the Israel and New Breed gospel song “It’s Not Over, It’s Not Finished.” I want to share that we got the phone call five days after that cathartic two mile drive.
I want to tell them that, after that initial shopping trip, we were inundated with friends and family members who wanted to provide us with stuff for our girls – gifts, and gift cards, and more gifts, and hand-me-downs for years. This private, nervous, let’s-hope-they-come-home shopping trip was replaced with celebrations and packages and kindnesses in some of the most unexpected times.
I want to pull out my phone, and show them that there is a happy ending just around the corner, just out of sight. I want to show them four years’ worth of photos, from the moment we met them the morning after our own Target trip to the day we brought them home to the “firsts” that every parent celebrates. I want to share the latest video of our girls singing, and messing up lyrics, and laughing when they realize it. There is so much laughter in our home; I want them to know that.
For now, I do what does not come naturally to me; I shut up. And I let them have their moment, and I pray that they have the homecoming they so desire. I pray for the baby who is waiting for this Mommy and Daddy, because that’s who they are.
Some people believe that a woman becomes a mother and a man becomes a father when that woman gives birth. Others hold firm that a people are parents from the moment of conception. In my family, we know that sometimes, every once in a while, people become parents standing in line at Target.
And suddenly, I don’t mind waiting at all.