Seventy-five yards from my current writing spot, a young woman scouts a place to rest. Her left forearm is lugging an oversized bag (I’m almost certain it’s the $25 Bubble Bloom tote from “Thirty-One”. You know, the one with enough space to park a Prius.) This makeshift purse / diaper bag / picnic basket is overflowing with the accoutrement required for a Baby’s Day Out. A squirmy 7-month-old is occupying her right hip. She trudges forward on the walking path, occasionally doing a little hip bump to keep baby from sliding to the ground. And even though she is donning the obligatory khaki capris and Old Navy summer tee required by her maternal status, she is not carrying herself like a young, happy mommy out for a stroll.
She seems very alone. Her shoulder-length dark blonde hair is unkempt, and she looks drained and wistful as she chooses a grassy spot in the sun, speckled with enough shade to settle her daughter safely without sunscreen. She unfurls a blanket, tosses out a few toys, and appeases the little one with a fruit bar before she collapses onto a nearby picnic table, completely unaware of her surroundings. Or maybe she is aware, but just doesn’t care.
Until she came along, I was thoroughly satisfied with the details of the day – the 72° cloudless sky, the panorama of the slowly-rippling lake, the actue greenness of the surrounding trees, the permeating scent of honeysuckle, Norah Jones in my ear, and a lovely salted caramel dark chocolate bar in my bag, waiting to fulfill its purpose in life. This is the most content I have felt in months – maybe years – when I’m moved to melancholy for this stranger. We are here, mere feet from one another, living the same moment in the same space with the same grass under our feet…and yet we are at opposite ends of the same spectrum.
I can’t help but wonder about her story. Is she usually distant and detached? Is she dealing with extended postpartum depression? Does she still live with her parents and felt the urgency to have her own space for the day? Has she been abandoned at a nearby 2-star motel while her husband is out fishing on “their” vacation? Has she loved someone fiercely, only to find herself disposable? Does she feel so buried under responsibility she can’t uncover the joy of her newly-crawling daughter? I keep inventing fictional scenarios, but I can’t seem to compose a single story line that makes me feel happy for her.
She’s a Rorschach inkblot and all I can see is a black spider.
Many days I’ve found myself in her Skechers. Days when I couldn’t find enough hope to laugh. Or fight. Or care. Thank God I’ve moved on from those days. And another day I might have been compelled to approach this woman, but for some reason, today is not another day. Tomorrow is another day. At least that’s what Scarlett says. Today is this young mom’s day to be introspective, to experience the sorrow, to learn more of who she needs to be, and ultimately, I pray, to find her smile.