I have no illusions that my place in the grand scheme of things is of little significance. What follows is something that I have been thinking about.
At various points of my life, I have occupied various forms of employment. The majority of this employment has required me to wear an ugly, ill-fitting shirt, put things on shelves, and to care for/be nice to people who don’t seem to understand that I am getting paid far too little to care about their petty and boorish needs.
I don’t take my employment for granted, mind you. Some days are just harder than others. And when you get to be a certain age, you have to wonder if your perpetually sore feet and always aching joints are worth the small paycheck and the hassle of having to show up on time. To be clear, it’s not bad work to be associated with. Overall, it provides you with a sense of purpose.
During one of my shifts, I had observed a pack of gingers heading my direction. It was night time and I was in the toy department. I was reasonably worried. You would be too if you saw a gentle sea of redheads threatening your flower-like exterior.
Riding this wave was a small woman carrying a baby. A quick glance and I had determined that the rest of her pack were actually her children. They all, even the baby, had the same shade of hair, and all of the children generally had the same facial features that the mother had.
Maybe they’re all shirttail relations. There are families like that. But I can’t shake the idea that this lady had birthed 8 children. And she was out in public with all of them, without the father.
The absence of the father is also a bit of a mystery. Is he as involved with the kids as the mother is? Does he buy her toys? With the amount of children between the two of them it’s fairly obvious that she stays at home for the kids while he’s working all sorts of hours so that they can keep the lights on.
To the mother’s credit, all of her children were fairly well behaved, even the baby. What I found the most remarkable was the fact that all of the children seemed to get along with each other. You’d think, with a household that size, that “turf warfare” in public would be a regular occurrence. How could it not be? Kid’s are genetically encoded to act like assholes at all of the wrong times.
Whilst I was finishing up my rounds, I stole some extra glances of the mother. She looked like a mom, put upon and often ignored. There was also something a bit different about her face.
It was hovering around her eyes. Trepidation, maybe? Her children were behaving remarkably. Maybe all 8 kid’s had earned a trip to the toy department? She was tired for sure. She is the matriarch of a village after all, and it was 8pm.
This woman is a career parent. She is going to die as a care-giver. There is nothing wrong with that but I can’t help but wonder if she ever wanted more than children out of life?
In the end, I guess that I have always known what the look on the mother’s face really was. It was resignation. Her life will not get any better than it was, that night when I saw her in the toy department.