Isle 9. Across from hundreds of boxes of cereal. Carts bump each other, a man sneezes and a kid begs his impatient mom for Sonic Hedgehog cereal.
A girl walks down the isle, her long hair loose and unwashed and her jeans and shirt looking like she pulled them out of the wash pile. A girl with a fuzzy headed baby draped across her left arm. A baby wearing a brown sleeper. A boy. Three days old. Clearly jaundiced. Sleeping.
Behind her slumps a slightly older boy with a fuzzy hunting hat, flaps pulled down over his ears, old shirt, untied shoes. He won't make eye contact. I hope he is her brother.
She looks tired. And unloved. But has a kind of defiant pride. She wants me to touch her baby boy. Three days old. (I didn't want to stand up three days after a birth let alone trudge through WalMart.) "This is my baby," she says. The boy grunts.
I leave the store concerned and sad. A sadness that is still with me like a little ball of cement in my chest.
Everything gramma in me wants to take her baby and bundle him in a blanket, give him the tight securely newborns are used to from the womb. I want to sit her in a quiet place, wrap her in a quilt and bring her tea. If ever a moment needs love this is it. This little new mother needs to cry. I can see it in her eyes. She hopes everything for her little darling boy, but who is standing with her? I hope hope hope she has a mother who loves her with the same fierceness. She is, herself, a child, who needs to be allowed to restart her development. She desperately needs someone to teach her and support her in the daunting task of keeping this boy alive and well.
I lay awake in the night and wonder if she is awake with a screaming baby, maybe trying to nurse him. Exhausted. Without resources. What will become of this little trio? I pray. My prayer expands and covers more and more space. I cry into my pillow.