SGLY: Handle with care

By Tiffany Chartier
Special to the Prosper Press

I could tell by the defeated expression upon the young woman’s face that she was not expecting the restaurant to be so crowded. She steadied her palm around the handle of a cumbersome carrier, her baby girl tucked inside. A step behind followed a towheaded girl about five years of age — a girl who bounced her steps as if she were playing hopscotch.

I follow the mother’s eyes as she scans the room for a place to sit. She lands at the table next to mine. When her food arrives, she eats her entrée with speed learned by parental experience. Between bites, she leans across the table and cuts her older daughter’s chicken into smaller pieces. The mother rocks the carrier with her elbow as she makes twirly motions with her hand to entertain the baby. Her attention is on the care of her children, and it is evident from the bags under the mother’s eyes that she has sacrificed care of herself.

Directly behind the mother and her two daughters sits another mother-and-two-daughter combination — three ladies of different generations: an older woman, a middle-aged woman, and a teenager. The teen is interacting more on her phone than with the people sitting in her company. The middle-aged woman looks put out with her daughter but has learned from parental experience to pick her battles. Between bites, the middle-aged woman leans across the table and cuts her mother’s beef and broccoli into smaller pieces.

“Mom, try it now,” she says.

The older woman picks up her utensil, and I cannot help but notice how both her hand and fork shake.

“I’m not sure, honey. Really, I don’t think I’m that hungry anyway,” she says as she looks at her daughter with sad eyes. So sad, in fact, that the daughter reflects the emotion she sees in her mother. The middle-aged woman gives her teenage daughter a nudge.

I thought the teenager was disengaged, but I was wrong. She was distracted. And now, with the prompting of her mother’s elbow, the teen looks across the table and sees her grandmother’s plate — barely eaten and getting cold. The grandmother folds and refolds the napkin upon her lap, trying to look busy and not bring attention to herself.

Before I can blink, the teen stands and moves to the empty seat beside her grandmother. “This looks delicious, Grandma. Do you mind if I try a bite?”

The grandmother beams. “Of course not. Help yourself.”

Soon, the teen is taking one bite for herself and assisting her grandmother with the next bite. The plate is almost empty before the grandmother laughs, putting her napkin over her plate and saying that she has not eaten that much in a very, very long time.

Returning my attention to the tired young mother and her two small daughters, I think about the proximity of the two families and their similarities — a living illustration of the cycle of caregiving and time.

“Mommy, I need to go potty,” the towheaded girl exclaims with excitement.

The mother looks down at her plate, resigning herself to the fact that she will not finish today’s lunch. “Jellybean, take one more bite and then we’ll go potty.”

“But I’m full, Mommy,” the girl pleads with sad, tired eyes.

The mother looks across the table from her child and smiles, putting her napkin over her partially eaten entrée. “Okay, Jellybean, let’s go.”

As both families leave, I am left looking at plates — some still full and others almost empty. A warmth runs behind my eyes before I realize my vision is blurred with tears. It happens so quick — this life, doesn’t it? One day we are serving and another day we are being served. The steady hands that once held us will one day shake before us. All of life is fragile. God, may we please remember to handle life and one another with care.

SGLY, dear reader.

(Smile, God Loves You).

Tiffany Chartier

Tiffany Kaye Chartier is a Christian author and opinion columnist. Submit feedback and connect for more soul lifts on Facebook: Tiffany Kaye Chartier; Instagram:@tiffanysgly; and Twitter: @tiffanychartier. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Texoma Marketing and Media Group.