A great deal of my parenting has occurred at grocery stores. This makes sense, as we shop at least weekly, and the girls generally get dragged along. There's the store far away that has a gas station, is cheap, and is our destination for stocking up on basic supplies. There's the store close by that has super-cheap produce and middle eastern baked goods, like pita and spinach triangles. Then there's the store in-between that's on the way to the gym, has some good sales, and is frequented by half of the little old ladies in Boston.
The latter of the three is where LittleDebbie and I headed this afternoon to take advantage of a super deal on milk. The customer service is always good; the cashiers are guaranteed to make eye contact and maybe a bit of small talk. This is not something to take for granted around here. And we always need milk. Did I mention that the place is Mecca for old ladies?
LittleDebbie is old enough to sit in the cart, instead of being in the car seat in the cart. She loves sitting there. She can look around and smile at people. Occasionally she'll utter a loud and recognizable "HIIIIII!" Oh, she's a charmer, and few can resist her in your average setting. But at this grocery store, she has everyone in the palm of her tiny little hand.
Frequently on my online mommy forum, there are discussions about strangers touching babies and giving them germs. Why on earth would a sane person touch a strange baby's face? Or hands? Those germs are going straight into that baby's mouth. They could catch a cold! Or MRSA! Or MERS!!!
Now, I realize that there is a group of immune-compromised children in this world for whom this is a serious danger. Their lives literally could depend on strange germy people keeping their hands off of them. But my child is not one of these children. She grazes the floor scraps of our house - paper, stickers, dust-bunnies - like a little catfish. And she has 2 adoring dogs that love to share "kisses" and tastes of whatever she has on her hands. And she's a third child. I generally don't worry too much about it.
But as I was contemplating the sugar content of Boston Baked Beans vs. Original Recipe, one of the many little old ladies stopped to chat with LittleDebbie. And LittleDebbie was happy to engage. The exchange was verbal to start. But then the lady started getting a bit touchy. She touched LD's nose. Then her cheek. Then she rubbed her head. And started holding her hand. And I started getting a bit uncomfortable. Because of germs. And a strange lady was touching my baby's face. I expect a touch on the arm or the foot. But she was crossing the line. And LD was enjoying it immensely.
"She's so so beautiful. So beautiful."
"Thank you...." (how do I politely ask her to stop touching?!)
"I love babies so much..."
(obviously! can you back off just a bit?)
"I always wanted a child. But I had 6 miscarriages. The oldest was 4 months along..."
"Oh wow, I'm so sorry." (oh. wow.)
"She's just so beautiful. Bless you child." And she made the sign of the cross over her head.
"LD, can you give her a high five?" LD giggled as I pushed her hand to touch the woman's hand. We did a long series of high and low fives. The two of them laughed with each one. And then it was time for both of us to move on.
"Bless you my dear. Enjoy your day."
"Thank you. You too."
And I heard her sigh heavily as she started her way down the aisle. I'm not sure if she had tears in her eyes, but I had tears in mine. What are a few germs in the face of such loss? I'd take my chances and let her kiss LD's face if I thought it would help.
There are days that I wish I could have said something when I didn't. And today I'm thankful I didn't say something when I could have. Because I'm not sure if spending a few minutes with LD brought her joy, but I know that shooing her off would not have.