I’m still working on the Big Holiday Post of Doom–not to hype it up too much, I’m just attempting to make a bunch of pieces fit together coherently and am on Draft #2. In the meantime, it’s The Week Between Christmas And New Year’s, when traffic is light! and no one does any work! and life is good! So I thought I’d just go on ahead and depress everyone.
For something to do on Christmas Eve Day, I took the kids to our neighborhood kiddie gym where they were having one of their free-for-all “open gym” sessions. Parents were sitting on benches watching their kids run around. About 25 feet away from me, a woman sat reading a newspaper. And then, all of a sudden, she was crying. She was probably making some effort to hide this, or to stop it, but there was no doubt about it. I felt terrible for her, because I have been there.
I envisioned all sorts of possibilities. She could just be having a bad day. She could be having a surge of hormones (just regular cycle stuff, or she’s pregnant, or she’s postpartum, or she’s menopausal). Maybe she just suffered a terrible loss (the loss of a parent perhaps, or, again, a pregnancy) and is barely holding it together for her son (who looked to be about four). The more important thing to determine was whether I should pretend I did not see her tears, or go over to her and ask her if she’s okay. I have had situations in which I could not stop tears even in public, but was all the while hoping no one would notice (in fact, just this morning I was reading this on the train; it is enough to move anyone to tears). I have also had situations in which a person did show me some sympathy, and it helped–at least to pull me temporarily out of the func so I could funktion. Which way to go for this complete stranger?
During my hesitation, the woman’s son came over. There is really nothing better when you are sad than interacting with your child, I thought; not only are children generally great cheerer-uppers, they create a necessary distraction because you can’t help but parent them and push your personal worries to the side. She talked to him and he left again. I was still unsure. She found the tissue box they always keep on the counter–that’s progress, I thought. The son came back, and asked her to come help him with something, which she did. The immediate crisis was placed on hold.
Not long after that, we had to depart for a date with Daddy. But I continued to send out my sympathy vibe to the nameless woman who doubtless has her own story to tell. Perhaps I could have given her a bit of needed strength, had I not frozen. What would you have done?