There's a semi-pot-luck gathering of friends tonight and I'm supposed to bring dessert. One friend suggested last night that I bake something that Grandma used to make. So, angel food cake with chocolate whipped cream, easy enough. Except I have plans for the morning and will have to stop afterward for the ingredients, and by 1pm with one kid asleep in the car, who am I kidding, I'm not making anything today. I pull in to a bakery, one I notice all the time but hadn't considered as a place where I could go until now.
Two kids come in with me. Two kids who cannot hold still for more than three seconds, who cannot keep their fists from banging on glass display cases or from vibrating all over each other like possessed puppies. Two kids who want to interrupt me fifty times while I try to tell the bakery lady, who must surely be internally raising an eyebrow at my inferior parenting and generally unkempt appearance, that I would like, oh, geez, how many cookies. How many? One kid wants to return to the car to get paper and pencil to help me tally it up. The other wants to swing from the eaves and take a sledgehammer to the place, not necessarily in that order. I just want a moment's peace to count potluckers inside my head. I really want a cream horn for myself, to sneak once we're home, but I'm being good, so I don't ask for that. Just eighteen M&M cookies. And two chess pies.
I slide my bank card across the counter to the bakery lady. To prevent myself from crying, I joke, "We're having...a day." I sign the slip, pack the cartons into a tote. My day may be shit but damnit, I'll still remember my reusable bags.
"Would you like something for you?" The lady asks. "A little something on the house?"
She startles me. And the thing is, yes, I would like something! But I don't want to ask for something.
"You're not asking, I'm offering," she says. I give her what must be the most pathetic, defeated look ever, and admit, that yes, one little lemon sugar cookie really would be nice with tea later today. She slips me a little paper bag.
"Thank you." I say, really, really meaning it. "My grandmother passed away last night. This kindness is worth so much to me today." She says sympathetic things, I tear up. She doesn't know about the way this loss timed itself to hit right at the peak of the horrible PMS I've had since my third son was born, how impossible my children have seemed lately, how I feel like I'm constantly chasing my tail. "Bless you," I say, and for the first time since realizing I'm an atheist, I understand what it means to me, and how important that woman and I am to each other in that moment, how each of us is blessing the other.
My unruly children careen into things all the way out the door. One asks about the little white paper bag and I tell him that it's a cookie just for me that the lady gave me because she thought I needed some kindness. To my surprise, nobody begs for it.
The baby wakes up after his short car nap and won't go back to sleep, dashing my hopes of enjoying the cookie in peace. My tea goes cold and I accidentally leave the paper bag on the counter. Miraculously, nobody raids the package.
When I finally open the bag, I discover that there are two cookies. I cry, and suddenly feeling abundant, I share.