Posts tagged ‘adult’

Return Adulthood

Sometimes I don’t feel like I am making a difference. Don’t get me wrong, I bet all Americans would be lost without Target and the trusty return line, where you can return crap you shouldn’t have bought in the first place or a gift your daughter-in-law did not appreciate during that recent family gathering. But when I help people take care of their retail therapy regrets, I do not feel as if I’m making much of a difference.

I tell myself that maybe today will be different, as I stand behind the counter and notice three people moving toward my line. Yuck.

The first one is an old lady returning the shower curtain because it didn’t match the beige of her bathroom walls. She complains for about 30 seconds on our lack of color selection before seemingly taking the cue of my lack of response and heading out the door.

The next is a man, returning an embarrassing pair of boxers with women kiss lips on them. Apparently the wife didn’t know him well.. Or the mistress. Who really knows at this point?

The next customer is just a…nothingness. Then there is a whip of hair appearing over the side of the counter. She hands me a sheet of paper. It was a bit crusty looking, maybe a cereal spill. She had to reach to the end of her arm’s length to get it on the counter. She looked to be under ten. Maybe. I could never tell about ages.

“What can I help you with?” I asked, wondering what this was as I looked it over. It was a piece of notebook paper with a list called “Things that have caused me pain” in the upper right hand side of the paper it said the date and “RETURN” in huge block letters.

“Mom is returning stuff later. But I wanted to help sissy. Mom gave me slushy money but I found this in sissy’s room and wanted to return it.” The girl told me.

“Well, what were you hoping to return it for?” I asked, knowing this was not going to be something I could give her money back for. Well, maybe…. I looked over the list. It started with “My parents’ divorce = cost me a normal dating relationship because I always worry I’m becoming too much like my Mom and that then I will not be able to move forward with the relationship.” Also listed was “My brother’s drug problem = cost me trust in family.” Then, a few lines later, “My brother’s funeral = cost me emotional balance.” At the end, it said, “RETURN so that I can be a healthy child again. I do not want to be an adult anymore.”

I frowned at this list and then looked at the girl. She had her wallet open and looked ready to transfer money back to her sister.

“I can help you with this. Hold on.” I told my co-worker I was taking a break and walked over to the girl, “Let’s go get that slushy.” I ordered slushies for us and didn’t let her use her mom’s money. She might need it to buy a ticket to anywhere that wasn’t her crazy family. We mixed the blue and red in our slushies because she had never done that before.

“It was in your sister’s journal?” I asked the girl, wondering absently what kind of mom sends their kid off to get a slushy by themselves. We sat down at one of the mostly clean tables in the Target sit down area.

“Yeah, I heard her crying and I snuck in her room when she went to hang out with Lily.” The little girl leaned closer and said sincerely, “I don’t think she knows how to return things. I don’t know what those are but I know the word return from my Mom. She likes to shop for wrong things.”

I looked at the little girl. I grabbed a book from my purse, called “Rising Strong” by Brene Brown. It was the self-help book I was reading and I figured the sister needed it more. I started to write a note and the girl babbled on about her slushy. “Your sister really loves you and wanted to return the list that was making you cry. I gave her this book because I can’t return life experiences. I know it sucks. My little sister is gone, too. – Target return girl.”

I handed the book to the little girl and said, “When you return a journal page (which I had stashed back in the book), you get a book from me.”

I started to stand but the girl asked, “Most people don’t return pages, do they?”

I sat back down and looked at her eyes, which were so much deeper already than they “should” be. But who decided on what “should” be, when every day something happened that “shouldn’t.”

“No, most people do not. But I am glad you did.” I stood up and walked back to the line.

Sure enough, the mom showed up in my line with a few things to return, including the new Nicholas Sparks bestseller, a clearance cup with little balloons printed all over it and three newborn outfits. I wondered if it was from a family dispute or if another child had been lost.

Right as the mom was about to leave with the girl, I said. “You have a very well-behaved girl. If you ever need a babysitter,” I jotted my number on the receipt, “Let me know.”

She thanked me and absently looked at her daughter. Maybe she will call. Maybe she won’t. But today I hope I made a difference.

The Metaphor

Inspired by the bridge prompt

By: Rebecca Taylor

I, Jenny Monroe have a story to tell and you dear reader is who I am going to tell it to. I grew up in a tiny town which wasn’t even visible on most maps. I knew everyone in my town because they either went to the same school as me, were my teachers, or the grocery checkout girl, or they had known my parents and grandparents. It’s funny because some people complain about how old fashioned and nosy their little towns are but I liked Elm Ridge. It was small; it was peaceful in its own way and most of all it was home. When I say peaceful in its own way, I mean that you could hear bingo being called on Friday nights from anywhere on Main Street and when it rained you could hear the train’s whistle in the next town fifteen miles away.  Small towns have a way of teaching you things and for me most of my lessons were learned on the outskirts of town at the old train bridge. You see our town was too small to have regular deliveries or passenger cars going through. That stopped shortly after I was born thirty-five years ago.

The old train bridge overlooked a beautiful meadow. Everyone in town loved that spot and would often take their families on picnics there especially on Saturday afternoons. My teenage years weren’t easy ones. When I was fourteen I decided I wanted to be grown-up. In my family, I was the oldest child; I had two younger brothers, both just little kids at the time. They were twins, ten years younger than me from my father’s second marriage. Before he met my stepmom when I was nine, he was a widower and had been since I was six. He was lonely but I never understood that, at least not then, he had me, right, why would he be lonely? My grand-daddy said he was lonely for adult companionship, I didn’t know what that meant back then either. When my stepmom came along, it was okay in the beginning, she has always been nice to me but when I reached my teen years I felt like she was trying to replace me in my dad’s life. She was the one who made his coffee in the morning, the one he laughed with, the one he wanted to go for a walk with in the apple orchard at night while I stayed in the house and minded my brothers. My brothers were taking up a lot of time in my dad’s life, after all they were young and craved attention, and they were boys and cared more about playing sports than I ever had. Long story short, in order to get out of the family picnics, I got a job working at the grocery store as an errand girl on weekends. The pay was okay and I was gaining my independence because I was working and that was an adult thing to do.

On nights in the summertime, I would often stay at my friend Sarah’s and we would take a flashlight and walk down to the train bridge. It had a wood and metal structure that showed its age. It was solid but the paint was peeling and the rust showed. If you looked closely, you might even see initials carved into the wood, a symbol of some of Elm Ridge’s relationships. Some which still last today, some which have moved on with the times similar to the train’s traffic. It was here on the bridge that I talked about what I wanted to be when I grew up, where I flirted with boys and even fell in love. It was also here that the boy I loved and who I thought might even love me told me that he was leaving for a more exciting life in the city. He was going off to get a business degree. I still had a year left of high school and as much as I asked him to wait for me to come to him, he said he couldn’t. It was on that bridge that I realized how unfair life can be. I wondered there hadn’t I been through enough in my life losing my mother, battling for my father to notice me once he had other children and now losing a person who was so important to me to his dreams. I wondered what about my dreams? I felt stuck between the town where I had always lived and the outside world. At the time I felt left out, cast aside and forgotten, but I pulled up my boot straps and kept working. I studied hard and kept earning money at the grocery store. I even got a scholarship and wouldn’t you know that took me out of town. I studied to become a nurse and when my schooling was done I knew that I could work anywhere in the world and for a while I took a good job at a hospital in a city. It was busy and the city was noisy but I had to prove to myself that I could do it. Some days were a struggle but little by little I put one foot in front of the other and did my job.

After I had been at the hospital for a few years, I met a male nurse and we got married. He wanted somewhere peaceful to raise our future children and my town had managed to grow while I was gone. We both got jobs working at the clinic there and before I knew it I was taking Jim to the bridge that had been a metaphor for my life growing up –rough, sturdy but prevalent. Looking back now I realize how much my dad loved our family and I’m catching up on my time with him, if I can make it I don’t miss a picnic in the meadow near the bridge and neither do my husband and our beautiful daughters now four and six. Life really does come full circle, sometimes we just don’t know it when we’re fighting it.

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