meanwhile . . .

mdThe following is based on a true story inspired by this post, as told by my dad.

I followed her into Starbucks. Actually, I arrived first. I was a gentleman: I opened the door.

It was the right thing to do, of course, though I was in a hurry. It was 7 a.m. I had to be at the office in less than an hour. But she, too, appeared rushed. It was the hurried click, click, click of her heels behind me that I had noticed first.

She was on the phone but mouthed “Thank you” as she and a small child walked past. Once they were through, and after a businessman had darted out, I abandoned my post and got behind them in line. Starbucks was busy that morning. I couldn’t afford to be chivalrous all day.

Inside, it was the usual clamor: the grinding and clicking and hissing of espresso machines; the people talking and laughing. I was too tired to much notice the details.

The store was slow that day, however. The seconds were moving like hours. As I waited, wondering if I should just go, I gradually became aware of the mother and child in front of me who I’d let in.

The woman was wearing a white suit and heels, both obviously name brand. Over her shoulder was a matching leather purse; the label on the flap read Coach. Her blonde hair was curled and swept neatly into a ponytail while her face, though not gorgeous, was marked prettily with mascara. She looked to be about thirty-five. She was off of the phone now and holding an iPad. She was trying to punch in its code. I noticed she was wearing a large diamond ring. The ring had to have cost at least a hundred grand.

“Mommy, hurry—my iPad!” The woman’s daughter was tugging at her skirt. She had blonde hair, too, and blue eyes, and was wearing a polka dot dress with shiny shoes that went click, click like her mother’s.


The setting.

“Patience, honey. Mommy’s trying,” the woman said. The child stopped tugging. A moment later she unlocked the machine. She pointed to an open armchair and handed it to her daughter. “Go sit right there. You can play games until Mommy is done.”

“Okay!” The little girl skipped to the chair and climbed into it. With her legs straight in front of her, her shiny shoes barely reached the edge of the seat. She didn’t notice. She was already absorbed in an exciting game of “Angry Birds.”

Her mother and I were finally at the counter.

“Hi, Mr. Steve!” said the young man at the cash register. He smiled at me before turning his attention to the woman.

“Hello, Tim!” I said, shaking my head, glad for the distraction. “Busy morning! . . .”

On my way out, I saw the woman tucking the little girl into her car seat in the back of a BMW X5. She was on the phone again. The little girl was still playing with her iPad, until . . . Suddenly, abruptly, she held the iPad up to her ear. “Hello?” she said.

Images: Pinterest and personal

24 thoughts

    • Haha. Yes, we were… And in some places, we still are. Though they are growing few and far between.

      So glad you enjoyed the story! It didn’t just fall on the page like that—trust me!

    • Yes, I am assured she was very cute. I’m particularly interested in the contrast between this little girl and the little girl in my previous story, though. Such different circumstances. Is it necessarily a good thing that this 3-year-old has her own iPad? How will the difference in their environments—and the opportunities that go along with that—affect the people they become?

      • Genetic science (my DRD4-7R post while you were unfortunately in the middle of your grandmother’s passing) is increasingly showing that it seems to be both. However, if you have a particular combination of genes passed to you from your ancestors, “Dandelion-children” typically grow up fine in almost any environment. If your previous girl (Just Like Mommy) is an “Orchid-child”, she is less likely to thrive in a negative harsh environment.

        I’m loving all the new DNA-genetic research that is coming out, revealing startling evidence! :)

      • Oooh, I’ll check out your post. Sorry haven’t been able to keep up with everyone’s work recently as much as I’d like to!

        I completely agree that it’s both genetics and environment, with a touch of what we choose ourselves… One of my dad’s friends, a general surgeon, was recently reading about studies they’re doing about how we can actually change our own DNA, even within us while living, even regarding what we pass onto our kids. Startling, intriguing stuff that the medical world never imagined possible before!

    • You sense right.

      These little girls are growing up in two very parallel different worlds. How will their circumstances affect them? What are the good and bad that can be gleaned from both? How much of who we are is who we are, and how much of it is where we came from?

  1. I watched a tv programme many years ago about a couple of foster parents. They had brought up 20 or more children during their lives. The woman said that when she first started she thought that children were like a book with blank pages and that as a parent you could write their story, that you could shape and mold them. After 20 or so children she said that they were indeed like a book, but it had all the pages filled in and as a parent you were lucky if you could even insert a single fullstop. Now that I have two children I have a lot of sympathy for her position. You can push and pull them in a direction of your choosing, you can be a good role model or a bad one, it may change their circumstances or their demeanor, but it doesn’t affect their essential character.

    Thanks for another interesting post and a great short story.

    • Mmm. That’s very interesting, Pat. I believe it. My Nana (the one who passed away) always said a kid’s character was fully developed by age 3. In another story of two brothers who were adopted, the same idea seems true. One of the boys was three and the other was just an infant. They’d been taken out of an unsafe environment with parents who were drug addicts, and, as they grew, the younger child far exceeded his older brother both socially and mentally. The impact of those first few years made a big difference in the older brother’s life…

      I think where I think environment affects us is in what sort of surroundings we feel comfortable and (often) in the opportunities we are given. The 3-year-old with her own iPad is likely to have very different expectations of life than the 3-year-old who grows up in poverty.

      Thanks so much for reading and your thought-provoking comment!

    • Aww! I’m glad you enjoyed the duo. They were fun to write, especially considering the far-reaching implications the differences between the two might have on these kids… Reminds me of the different perspectives of people in Hong Kong. All living in the same city but seeing it from very different sides…

      I’m so glad they made you excited to go pick up your own little girl! She is a lucky little girl, indeed. :)

  2. now we need two little boys –
    and I think of my hillbilly neighbor’s sun – I truly hope he does not turn out like his father
    and I hope the girls are not whores like their mother –
    but they will be – and again we have fate!
    I have hope for one girl – she has a chance!
    I see her look when she looks at her parents – she knows what they are (not that that is wrong – it is a choice) and I sense she wants more.
    Which brings us back to what is your definition of fate
    China bus driver?
    Smoking woman?
    Starbucks woman?
    Predestination vs Freewill – ? and Milton? (that was my thesis)
    Keep it up! Love the thought provoking

    • Yes… We do need a story about little boys. I’d actually wanted to write about a boy for my second story, but, alas, the one that came to me (my dad’s) was about a girl, and switching genders just seemed like too much work. :P

      Like Pat said (above), I think it’s kids’ temperaments and character are developed early on. I think where parents and other role models make an impact is in the environment in which they place a child and the opportunities they are able to give them…

      While my poem states that “it’s up to us,” how many studies have shown that people who were beaten as kids tend to beat their own children? There is no easy answer to the question of what makes us who we are. Yes, we have a choice, but what that choice is isn’t even always up to us. Your neighbor’s son has a choice about whether or not he’ll turn into a hillbilly like his dad. The little girl in this story will likely choose if she wants to be a stay-at-home mommy or work part-time as a dental hygienist. :D

    • You are so, so incredibly sweet. That means so much. I’m glad you like my writing… As for becoming your favorite blogger, I could only hope. You are already one of mine. :)

  3. I read this yesterday, juxtaposed with “Just Like Mommy”.
    These posts have made me look forward to the next one in the series.
    I’m interested to see where you’re going with all of this. Or perhaps you’re studying your readers.

    • It’s a little bit of both, honestly, though that’s a good observation. I was painting pictures from which many things could be pulled, if people were willing to dig deeply enough. I’m still navigating where I’ll go next. I got a little sidetracked with my Tahoe trip. ;)

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read both stories!

  4. This held my attention throughout. Your word choice put me right into the scene. Now I curious, itching to read about what happened afterwards. Glad I found you :)

    • I’m so glad to hear that, Uzoma! As a writer, I could hope for nothing more. Did you get a chance to read “just like mommy,” which parallels this story? I will be following up on this series soon… Got a little distracted with my trip to Tahoe, etc. ;) I look forward to checking out your blog, too!

  5. I love the line “I couldn’t afford to be chivalrous all day.” A lot of truth in those words.

    Another great story about connection (or lack of) between children and their parents…this one stands out much more, as it encapsulates a very different time period than when I was a kid. A bit more technology out these days! Again, great writing!

    • I agree! A very different time period from when I was a kid, too. I didn’t even get a cell phone until my junior year in high school. Last year in Hong Kong, my 12-year-old students were playing on their iPhones all the time…

      Thanks so much for reading and your kind comment. :)

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