There was this one instance in my life when I accidentally ‘forgot’ Ryan. At the vegetable section of the supermarket. Amidst a lively display of butterhead and romaine lettuce.
I am not proud of the moment. I think I may have mentally face-palmed myself a zillion times for it. I break out into a cold sweat even now when I think about it.
He was one at the time, having his afternoon nap in his stroller. I was window-shopping at the organic produce section of the supermarket. Baking imaginary casseroles in my mind and feeling giddy from the self-inflicted domestic goddess-ness I was feeling.
‘A’ had gone to withdraw some cash from the ATM, and I pushed the stroller along the aisles idly, smiling to myself, nodding at rows of colourful vegetables. Food does wonderful things to our mood, doesn’t it?
At some horrific moment during the walk, my hands slipped off the stroller handle. I must have been distracted by a rather appealing display of strawberries …I don’t remember. But I left the stroller parked beside the lettuce and moved on to the bread aisle.
I spent a good ten minutes there, feeling all baker-ly, touching the rye breads and the pumpkin seed breads. Finally I chose a loaf of white bread. Yes, let’s not judge folks.
I was already paying for the bread when ‘A’ came back. Something in his face set off an alarm in my head. I was missing something, I knew. Something crucial, but I couldn’t get it. He looked around, and then walked fast towards me.
You know the feeling when you could have all the oxygen in the world, but your lungs forget to breathe? Well I did then. We ran past shoppers, me stuttering an apology. To ‘A’. To Ryan. Horrible, horrible mother!
And we found him. The stroller still parked at the same spot. Ryan still asleep inside. Not aware that his parent’s hearts had stopped for an instant.
And sounds and sights returned to me in a single whoosh. Ears buzzing with static of people around me, eyes tearing up with relief, the world came back to me.
‘A’ looked at me. He licked his lips. They had gone very dry. There was a brief moment where we just looked at each other. This could go two ways. He could bite my head off then and there. Or he could give me the silent treatment and let me stew in my own guilt. Which would it be?
But I never found out. Because there was a stir in the stroller and Ryan was waking up. Small hands and legs stretching. Small mouth yawning. His face crumpled into a ‘I am going to cry, can someone pick me up?’ expression. Post-nap crankiness. ‘A’ bent over and picked him up. Before I could. Ryan slumped on his shoulder. Safe. And loved. Loved so very much.
‘A’ rubbed his back trying to soothe him.
“It’s ok”, he murmured kissing his crankiness away. He bent his head and nuzzled his nose against Ryan’s ear.
“It’s ok” he said again. This time he raised his head and looked at me. And this time, I knew the message was for both of us.
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