She was a hurricane of a woman - gale force winds, loud thunder and a wake of destruction included. She blew into Aldi while I was shopping and I can't seem to wipe out the vivid images I'm carrying of that noisy, ravaging fifteen minutes.
The dozen other after-work shoppers and I were peaceably going about our gathering of cucumbers, yogurt and pasta when she burst through the front door. With three noisy kids in tow, she roared up the aisle already screaming, "MIRANDA, LEAVE THAT ALONE. DON'T' TOUCH ANYTHING. AND STOP HITTING HIM."
Okay, I thought. She's very loud, but she has control of what seem to be a rambunctious mini-tribe. Mind your own business and tune her out. But that quickly became impossible.
"SHUT UP. JUST SHUT UP. I'M NOT BUYING COOKIES. WHADDA I LOOK LIKE, A MILLIONAIRE? MIRANDA, STOP RUNNING AND GET OVER HERE. TYLER SHUT UP." I'm wondering . . . it doesn't seem possible he could learn that by example.
The little boy and two girls ran up and down the aisles, jumping, throwing themselves on the floor, screaming, punching crashing once against the large, glass refrigerator doors. "STOP IT. I SAID, FRIGGIN' STOP IT," she bellowed. "MIRANDA, GET OVER HERE BEFORE I KILL YOU." I was the one who stopped. I stopped trying to concentrate on my shopping. I stood against the freezer doors, watching. Miranda (not her real name) ignore her, continuing to jump and spin. She'd tuned out the hollering a long time ago. "I TOLD YOU TO LEAVE HIM ALONE. MI RAN - DA, GET OVER HERE! Little Miranda continued to twirl obliviously. And then SHE grabbed her.
She snatched Miranda by the collar of the small hooded jacket, twisted it and slammed her against the low, open freezer case, yelling continually in her face about what a rotten kid she was. She pulled her forward and smashed her back again. I froze.
I thought what can I do? Do I interfere? What would I say? I'd have to remain calm and quiet and get the mother's attention. And then what? Then this large, unkempt, bully of a mother would attack me well, verbally only hopefully. Do I want to enter the storm? The thrashing and roaring continued.
I thought I can take her verbal assault, but will it help Miranda? Miranda and her siblings really can't be blamed. They're learning their rude, disrespectful ways at home, from a master.
The words were tumbling through my brain: "I need to help. I can't just stand here and watch this." I reached for my cell phone, wondering if there was even a signal in that part of North Warren. My mind was racing. Who would be the respondent? The Conewango police? Do I dial 911? Do I mind my own business? Can I tolerate standing here, watching the battering of this little girl? And I thought about the ultimate loss of her self-confidence, her childhood, her future.
I thought quickly back to the only other time I'd had the courage to enter the fray, to get involved. It was about fifteen years ago, before cell phones. As I headed into Quality Market from the parking lot a man came out dragging a 3 to 4-year old boy. He was yelling and carrying on. As I tried to look away, he reached down and punched him so hard on the shoulder that the kid crumpled to the ground. Then the man started kicking him. I ran toward him, "Stop it. You can't do that. You're hurting him. You must stop," I yelled.
"What's it to you? Get away from me, lady." he barked.
"This is wrong, leave him alone." I pleaded. My kids were grown but I couldn't imagine anyone doing this to a little person, any person.
"Go **** yourself. Get outta my face," he said as he reached down and dragged the kid to his shiny new truck. I wanted to cry I was so upset for this little boy. I thought if he'll do that in public, what happens behind closed doors? As he threw the kid into the truck and slammed the door, I quickly found a pencil in my purse and copied his license plate number. He peeled out of the parking lot . . . and I never called the authorities.
I realized that it would be my word against his and I'd be "that meddling woman." And I felt like a quitter . . . helpless . . . cowardly . . . not following through on my own strong beliefs. I carried the weight of it around for days. It was that memory that came flashing back as I watched Miranda and her tyrant of a mother battling in the frozen food section.
Do I take her on or just dial 911? Will I just get a faceful of four letter words blown at me? If I wager my idealistic views of childhood and parenting against this force of destruction, does anybody benefit? Will Miranda be worse off when she gets home? This is a no-win situation
So again, I became the coward, avoiding confrontation, annoyed with myself and frustrated. The woman continued loudly, railing and barking through the checkout line. And then she was gone. I sadly watched the hurricane blow out into the parking lot, sweeping its victims along, the inexorable damage continuing.
We dozen shoppers went about selecting our tomatoes and bananas, eyes cast downward in denial of what we'd witnessed. The fetid wind still hung in the air.
Marcy O'Brien writes from her home in Glade Township. She can be reached at Moby.firstname.lastname@example.org.