We were getting restless and needed to get out of the house last week on a cold, rainy day. After all, at 8 months pregnant, I had a rare surge of energy and wanted to take advantage of it.
And so, I piled the kids — 4, 3, and 18 months — into the minivan for a trip to the mall, where there’s an indoor playground and a little pretzel stand close by.
“You sure?” my husband asked. “Remember what happened the last time you took all the kids to the mall?”
I did remember — meltdown city. But that was the Christmas season and the mall was a zoo and it brought out the wild in everyone.
And so off we went with a fully stocked diaper bag and emergency Goldfish crackers and well-napped children who were in happy moods.
With two in a double stroller, and one being constantly reminded to “stay close,” we made our grand entrance into the land of shops and signs and booths where people try to sell you wigs and sunglasses. Strangers met us with warm smiles — and some sympathetic stares — and I waddled with determination toward the playground.
And then — in the middle of my focus to get where we were going — I stopped.
Right in front of the trendy women’s clothing store, Express.
The moment caught me off guard, really. I was simply walking by, glancing over at the window mannequins in flirty, fashionable styles, smelling the sweet scent of perfume wafting from the front door, reminiscing on how I hadn’t shopped there in years — when I caught a glimpse of my reflection.
It was one of those clarifying moments where you get the rare opportunity to see yourself like someone may see you if they were reading a book and you were a character in it.
There I was, hair in a bun atop my head. Belly like a shelf at my midsection. Maternity jeans hiked high so they won’t sag. Two squirming girls in a double stroller. A big boy poking at his little sister.
And as I saw the young women casually shopping for dresses and boots and fun jewelry that they would probably be wearing to some party or date later that night, I felt a brief wistful feeling.
A slight longing for the carefree timelessness of youth. For time to focus on frivolity. Or perhaps, just to fit into the size 6 Express jeans that hang in my closet.
And though the feeling passed almost as soon as it came, I couldn’t help but stand there for a moment and reflect on how quickly life moves forward.
Then, it was time to get moving again.
We made our way down the giant elevator and parked at the rubber-floored playground with the big plastic tree, shared pretzels and laughter — and actually made it through the mall trip unscathed and encouraged.
But before we left, my 4-year-old wanted to ride the big carousel.
I paid for the token, and squatted down by the double stroller as his sisters and I watched him climb aboard a big zebra. Soon the sing-songy music started playing and the carousel started to move. My boy held tight to the metal pole as his zebra went up, down, up, down.
He grinned from ear to ear. We’d lose sight of him for a moment and the girls and I would wait patiently for him to circle around again. And when he did — he’d wave enthusiastically and shout, “Hi Mom! I love you!” Then he’d disappear again. Then back again with another, “I love you.”
“I love you, too!” I hollered back.
His sisters waved and cheered. And we sang, “Around and around and around it goes, where it stops, nobody knows.”
On the way into the parking lot on that cold, rainy day, I thought back to my moment in front of Express — and I smiled, thinking: that same girl that I momentarily missed is one who spent her time longing for exactly what I have now.
To be a wife and mother. To have the fulfilling satisfaction of deep-rooted purpose and overflowing love. To be grounded in what matters most.
Around and around and around this life goes, and there is such peace in knowing that I am exactly where I am meant to be.
“We have been created for a purpose; for great things: to love and be loved.”— Mother Teresa