Snapshot of a
I watched anxiously as the young boy in the car parked next to me tried his best to struggle through the traumatic moment. His face shriveled as tears flowed down his soft cheeks. Trapped in the confines of his mother’s car, constantly berated with her sharp words, it seemed to me that his identity was being forged in those fiery minutes. From the seclusion of my minivan, I felt it would never end, but to him an eternity must have passed. Even as the mother put the car in reverse and left the parking lot, I could see her snarled lips still venting her anger and frustration onto him.
I have no idea what transpired right up to the point where the family walked past me in the parking lot. Perhaps the boy was in need of discipline. Maybe the mother’s debit transaction had just been declined and she was reeling with embarassment. This dramatic scene could have been the culmination of so many things.
But as I watched the boy crumble under the imposing shadow of his mother, a lump of empathy swelled up in my throat that quickly turned to sour regret as I relived scenes from my own life where I had cast myself in the role of the villainous parent.
My thoughts turned back to the mother. She was likely hurting too. How did she let it go that far? Could there be a little girl behind her scowling face who was still writhing from a similar encounter over twenty years ago. Had she ever experienced unwavering love juxtaposed against the unbending will of a child? She had no memories of soft spoken rebukes. Her head was filled with the echoes that had battered her for decades and her skin burned hot with simultaneous frustration and longing.
When it was all over she would likely find a quiet place to collapse and relive the horror of what she had done. Later that night, her son would crawl up into her lap, put his frail little arm around her neck and kiss her gently upon her cheek. Stinging with pain of regret, she would tuck him into bed silently promising that tomorrow would be different.
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