I was hoping I’d get the other cashier.
I’m a couponer, you see, and the right cashier is nearly as important as having the right coupons.
I’d dealt with this cashier. I knew she was young and new, but knew she would be nice. Cashiers sometimes aren’t nice to couponers. I don’t blame them, sometimes couponers aren’t nice to cashiers.
So when this women I’d never seen called over, “I can help you over here.” I quickly check her out. Middle age. Her beckoning wasn’t overly cheerful, but also not rude. On the couponer cashier-profiling scale, she was an iffy. I held my breath, clutched my coupons and prepared to explain every coupon and store policy.
Her cheerfulness level grew to a 10 when I reached her register.
“I could have sworn I saw little ones with you! I must be imagining things,” she cheerfully kept rattling on. “I thought you had little ones.” She must have been a real baby lover, because she seemed disappointed that she wasn’t able to dote on how cute the non-existent little ones were.
“No, no,” I whispered. My heart was in my throat. I have a little one, but she’s not here, I wanted to scream.
When things like this happen and strangers ask me if I have children, I don’t want to ruin their whole day so I usually say as little as possible.
She kept on, “I thought there little ones,” she said with a smile in her voice. I felt rude for not responding, “I wish,” I said. “Maybe someday…” my voice hushed back to a whisper.
“Awww, you will honey,” the woman said. “I could have sworn there were little ones,” she said. She didn’t seem like she was going to let up with the “little ones” talk anytime soon.
My heart was pounding. My palms sweaty and the lump in my throat was pulsating. I had to stop her, but nicely.
I leaned in as I put items on the counter and said in a whisper, “My daughter died.”
With genuine compassion, she put her hand on mind and said the only thing you can say in this situation, “I’m so sorry.”
Her hand didn’t linger too long and was just a brush as I laid my single bags of popcorn on the counter, but it was just what was needed.
We transitioned into the rest of my order. No problems with any of the coupons, by the way.
I really didn’t want to ruin this lady’s day, so I said something to make her feel better.
As she handed me my change I said in a throaty whisper, “Maybe you saw my daughter here with me after all.”
It was to make her feel better, not me, I thought.
She said, “I did. You are right. I saw little ones. I know I did.”
I grabbed my items bags and walked out.
I realized maybe I hadn’t said it just for her. I’m not much into the thought of babies as angels, or ghosts or spirits. I’m not much for psychics or mediums.
But, in that moment, I needed to believe the woman saw not only Cora with me, chattering up a storm at my side.
I needed to believe that she saw Cora’s siblings, bubbling happily in car seats in the cart.
I needed it today. I had to picture it.
This woman gave me that hope. That she saw Cora always with me, and siblings to come in the future.
Hope comes from the most unexpected places at the most unexpected times.
Because of this woman, I saw them too. Cora and her siblings. I saw them. Just a glimpse. The kind of glimpse that you give from the corner of your eye, and when you look straight on it’s gone and you wonder if you saw them at all. That glimpse of hope today was enough. This stranger might not even remember me a few hours later. I’ll never forget her.