How to be Happy in Middle Age
We met in the baby aisle. She was older than I am – by maybe ten years. She was scanning items in a way that indicated that she was on a mission to find something, but it wasn’t something on her grocery list. If that had been the case, she would have walked straight over to the shelf and picked up the item with a kind of premeditation that she didn’t appear to have.
She wanted to buy something. But the “something” was still uncertain. Formula? Diapers? Sippy cups?
We saw each other, and it made me smile. I was on the same mission. And it felt great.
I was happy. Yes. I felt incredibly happy.
On the way into the grocery store, some ladies had handed me a flyer. There was a baby shower going on right there, right in front of the store. If you picked up something from the list, your gift would go to a local pregnancy resource center or home for women in crisis pregnancies.
My grocery run had just become a baby shower. Who wouldn’t smile at that? I wasn’t in a hurry. There was time in my day for this. And I could feel myself getting excited as I neared the baby aisle.
When I saw the other woman scanning the baby food, I knew that woman felt the same way. She was too old to be a mom on a grocery run. There were no babies in tow – and there hadn’t been for many years. And yet, here she was, in the baby aisle.
She didn’t look like she had a lot of money. She looked, well, like me, only older. Not high maintenance. She probably did her own nails. She let the gray show. No sophisticated hair salon for her.
And I wondered if her story was anything like mine. Had she struggled in those early years? Had she sat in a Birthright office and heard a woman say, “You’re pregnant.” Had she used cloth diapers – not because she was a green-environmentally-conscious mom, but because she couldn’t afford Pampers? Had she known what it was like to apply for WIC – and been exceedingly thankful for such a wonderful program?
Had she delighted in those babies that society said she couldn’t really afford?
Was she standing here, in this aisle, feeling a sense of total joy, and kind of marveling at the fact that she felt like the lucky one, the blessed one – not because she was no longer that woman – but because giving to another young woman was a little like saying thank you to God.
For mommies who struggle.
For clinics and resource centers and homes and churches that serve women-like-you-once-were.
For life events that take you to a place where you can give back.
Yesterday, I stood in the baby aisle. And I was supremely happy.
I feel sorry for those who had no time or money to deviate from their grocery list. I feel sorry for those who felt no tug to pause in an aisle they never visit, because they left the store still feeling rushed or overwhelmed with their own concerns.
Not the woman I met in the baby aisle.
She was happy.