As the list lengthened in my head, the first item I wanted to rearrange was my purse.
I hate purses.
So, if I get one, it has to be better than the one I’m already enduring- one compartment, one inside pocket, one outside pocket, straps 10 inches at least, not more than $50, preferably less than $30. Not extravagant requests...
A trip to Target to explore my options seemed to be my first step, along with a pledge to be on task with organizing as soon as I rectified the purse situation.
I love Target.
My daughter loves Target.
Upon entering, I’m drawn to the shoes. A cute leopard pair of low pumps catches my eye- knowing they would have been in my daughter’s closet. Tay would not only have the courage to wear leopard, she would begin the bargaining- pointing out the low Target price would be EVEN lower once we explained to Daddy that since we wear the same size, it’s like purchasing two 10$ pairs of shoes, her green eyes conspiring, dancing with every syllable. The joy this child brings – even now.
Remembering my bargain with myself, I made a mental note to look for the shoes on-line and went in search of a purse that would help me organize my life.
Target locates the purses in the center front of the store- perfect for listening to the families in the check-out lines and catching fragments of conversations between moms and their children as they enter and exit. Honestly, it’s never intentional- years of lunch duty in school cafeterias just trains a body’s ears to be present. Taylor would catch me silently and involuntarily intruding and interrupt with a stern, “Mother...stop it.”
Still today’s Target conversations - so universal, so regular, so typical of every Target experience....
“Mom, can I have....”
“Hey, Mama did you see...”
“What did we discuss in the car?”
When the child’s pretended ignorance warrants no answer, the mama answers her own question, “We discussed whining. Do you remember what we decided whining is?”
Studying the red-gridded cart in front of her, the curly headed cherub offers a gentle, “uh-huh”.
Mama stops unloading her cart, drops her eyes and asks- “Do you remember wanting the glitter pens 10 minutes ago and whining when I said no?”
Without acknowledging the question or perhaps acknowledging it with a physical response, the little girl of five or six moves beyond her mother’s loving glare to the back of cart, pretending to be enthralled by its wheels.
Then...A mom and her daughter enter the front door and my wandering ears light upon the words, “Alright Kylee can you tell me what we discussed in the car about shopping in Target?”
Little Kylee skipped in front of her mother, briskly turning her back to mouth of opportunity Target offered, “Yes Mommy.... but Mommy you know that one aisle....” their voices trailing off into the marketing maze that is Target. I smiled knowing Kylee’s bargaining was finding- no doubt- a loop-hole in her mama’s talk about Target expectations. I know a little girl like Kylee.
We bargain; Target bargains; our children bargain. Sometimes everyone goes home happy; other times one of goes home crushed, disappointed or frustrated. My daughter and I always bargained in Target – we bargained about calories and how we would work off the Ruffles, the oreos. We bargained about “if I purchased this, she would cover that”. I can’t walk into Target and not see Taylor and bargains, the ones she would win and the ones I would lose.
I remember the dozens of five-dollar movies I moved out of Taylor’s apartment after her sophomore year of college, and then again two months later after a drunk driver took her life from us. In May, she swore most of them were Kendall’s, her roommate. Later that fall, Kendall and I laughed at how Taylor Renee justified their purchase. (BTW -They ALL belonged to Tay.) We surmised she had bargained with herself, her own bank account, that she conspired, no doubt, to get her daddy to make up the difference and how she sometimes just said – “I’ll figure it out later.”
As I left the purse section, without the item that would organize my life, I thought about the bargains, the pleading, the begging and the tears Taylor’s daddy and I spent those hours in the ICU after the wreck. I thought about the messages her friends sent her phone and her social media pages willing her to recover, bargaining with God to heal her.
I thought - we never really leave our small, wide-eyed youthful selves when we want something, when we really, really yearn for that which seems beyond our reach. And so, we bargain.
I struggle with Paul’s words, “for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”
If I stop there, my broken heart whispers, “but Paul, you never lost a child.”
I know Paul suffered other atrocities, but feeding me facts when I am sad, when I need to be sad, isn’t what I want, nor am I ready to listen.
So, when I am ready to listen, to help myself, to be less of a victim, I keep reading and face verse 13 “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
When I find my center, sitting in my car in the parking lot of Target, shedding tears for the daughter for whom I’ll never buy another Dr. Pepper, with whom I’ll never shop for a wedding dress, to whom I’ll never listen narrate the joys and trials of raising her own daughter- I am reminded of the orchestration of His strength in the absence of mine.
Days go by and we just get up and do our day, ambling through it sometimes with purpose, sometimes numb; other days begin and somewhere the magnitude of what this world is missing without Taylor Renee begs us to question how in the hell we are up and walking around. The answer is found in verse 13 and in other scriptures like:
He is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at the break of day.
Other days end with a fifteen-year old girl crying because she lost her father not once, but twice – the day he left her, and the day he died – and this hell that we are living suddenly becomes useful – when I tell my new charge –
"I get it"…take her hand, listen and remember these words…