A word you see often in Civil War books, and a favorite of mine since I have so many.
A skirmish is an episode of irregular or unpremeditated fighting…a quarrel, tiff, spat or clash.
I clashed alright, with a mean mother over an upset kid.
I was coming out of Staples, elated, after buying 25 notebooks at .17 each. Schooldays Special, it was called and luckily they didn’t ask for ID, when I notice a little girl in a heap on the floor in tears.
“What’s the matter?” I say, immediately rushing over. She’s so distraught she can’t answer. Turns out, she broke the top of her styrofoam cup spilling its contents all down her shirt and socks.
“Don’t cry,” somehow fixing it so it wouldn’t spill anymore. The poor thing is just beside herself, and I’m just guessing, with shame.
“Who are you with?” I then ask, knowing she couldn’t be alone since she was just a little more than a baby. She slowly looks up and I see this tall, angry looking woman with a little boy observing, more like a truant officer than a mom.
“Does she belong to you? She’s very distressed.”
“She’s always distressed about something, the little shit.”
Where’s that ten foot baguette when you need it?
“Get up honey,” I say to the kid, still perched on the floor. “It’s only a little spilled drink, it’s okay?”
“It’s not okay. Look ad-der. Like a little orphan with crap all over her.”
The tears start all over again and did she hit a nerve with me. My mother, too, made fun of me whenever I cried, telling everybody what a little pain in the ass I was. It’s a myth that kids have no feelings…they’re just crocodile tears. I’m here to tell you, that isn’t so, our tears in lieu of words.
I have to muster every shred of control so not to knock this woman on her cruel, bitchy ass.
I pause taking a breath. I reach my hand to help the little girl up who hesitates, but then stands. She’s so sweet, tears the size of gumdrops clinging to her long, dark lashes.
I then look at her mother and say, “I was never lucky enough to have a child, but I can tell you this, as her mom, and I’m not judging you (to hell I wasn’t), your job is to help her get through whatever it is, even some spilled milk.”
“Well thank you Dr. Spock.”
Okay…hold your temper Susannah because if you don’t, she may take it out on the kid.
“It was very nice to meet you both, and I hope the rest of your day goes better.”
Yes, I say that, fists clenched, a serene smile on my face phony as can be. It’s times like these I know I can act.
I wave to the little girl who just stares with her big watery eyes, while her mother pays for a huge roll of packing tape, I would so love to wrap over her mouth.
As for me, I cry too, for all the little kids who are mistakenly, misunderstood.
I was one.