Category Archives: Kristine

A Glimpse of Them

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.

hope

 

 

Time to Really Give It My Best

Every student in my freshman college writing class was required to meet one-on-one with our professor a few times a semester to discuss the direction of our research project.

At the end of my last one-on-one meeting with my professor, he changed the subject away from my research paper (about how school violence was actually decreasing. I’d started to write a paper about the increase in school violence and interestingly found overall violence was way down).

“In my 20 years of teaching, you’re the best writer I’ve had,” he said. “You could be great, you know, if you put some effort into it,” he finished, leaving me perplexed.

Red-faced I argued, “I do put in effort.”

I was lying. I flew through everything with the goal of finishing and getting a passing grade.

I blew off the weirdo. He’d given me all A’s. I always got good marks in my writing classes.

Now, I understand.

New Year’s Eve second grade I decided to finish the year by writing as many short stories as I could by midnight. I can’t imagine too many other kids sat quietly in a corner writing on one of the few nights of the year bedtime was whatever time you passed out on the sofa or floor after boisterously ringing in the new year.

From that point on, I wanted to be a writer when I grew up.

I entered Indiana University with an intended degree in journalism in 2000. Most of my classmates changed majors at least once, but not me.

I was set.

After college I worked as a newspaper reporter before I realized making a living working for a small newspaper wasn’t possible, and oh yeah, hey, newspaper was dying.

Everything was up in the air. I got a few part-time jobs here and there and was searching for something permanent when I became pregnant with Cora. I remember feeling extremely relieved. I could stop trying. I’d be a stay-at-home mom and work here and there on the side.

But then she died. It might seem silly because after all this was only the plan for nine months or so, but I was so attached to that identity, I didn’t want to give it up.

I’ve worked here and there and scraped around, but during the day, I’d mother her. I’d work to get laws passed in her name. I’d come up with graphics I was sure would spread to tell the whole world the signs of heart defects in newborns.

It felt right for awhile.

I believe firmly that dead children still need parenting. Maybe it’s part of the grieving process.

It was another stall tactic.

I’ve wanted to be a writer my entire life.

I’ve been terrified of failing my entire life.

After all, obviously my writing needs polishing.

When people ask what I do, I always stammer and grow nervous inside. Most of the time I settle on “writer.” Their next question is inevitably about what I write.

Real writers write every day. I haven’t.

Real writers work to improve every day. I haven’t.

My knowledge of proper grammar has faded. It’s something that requires constant reinforcing.

I know what my college professor meant. I had some natural ability, and with hard work and dedication I could be better.

I don’t know if that better is good enough to write a best-selling novel.

Maybe my good enough will not be that great.

But, it’s time to find out. For real.

Time to set at the keyboard and bleed and then have my work torn to shreds.

Least you think I have some kind of big head,  a few years later I turned in an assignment for a journalism class. It was about a topic I was really interested in. I got to interview the head coach of the IU basketball team at the time, and I really tried.

It was even set to be published in the school paper.

The professor tore into it and made me feel like it was the worst article in the history of journalism. I think she gave me a C. I remember calling one of the editors at the paper and begging her not to run it out of embarrassment.

That’s how writing goes. Not everyone will love what you do.