When I pocketed my two quarters, the mocking little smile at the corner of her lips almost set me off.
On that cold Sunday morning, I had run away from home. Not far, just to a dimly lit cafe where I happily paid $1.50 for a cuppa joe and the luxury of sitting in a quiet place for an hour, sans children.
Yes, I was one of those moms who escaped to their local coffee shop during naptime on Sundays to indulge in a little Me-Time with an over priced bagel and a trashy novel. I settled into the far corner booth, turned off my cell phone (emergency, shmergency) and enjoyed the pleasure of eating something slowly and all by myself.
All the while, the well-pierced chippy slouching behind the counter watched me with a smug look on her face.
What she didn't realize was that I could read her mind as clearly as I could read the size label through her too-tight hip huggers.
I will never be like her.
Well, honey, that's what I used to think, too, until It Happened to Me.
If you're lucky, I wanted to tell her, you'll be pursuing your chosen career when you're my age and maybe you'll still be totally in love with that hunky football player. But for every important landmark in your life that remains unchanged in the next ten years, multiple others will be so different that you'll swear you woke up in someone else's body.
In fact, you may actually fantasize about waking up in someone else's body after seeing what pregnancy and childbirth can do to yours.
Maybe you'll luck out and get accepted to that top-tier college or university. Be warned those schools are tops for a reason: they're hard. People flunk out of college all the time. Sometimes it's because they major in Kegging but mostly it's just a matter of not working hard enough.
If you do manage to graduate in a major that actually translates to employable on the outside world, you'll find that Real Jobs are never quite what they're portrayed to be TV shows. You have to show up every day for Real Jobs. And stay all day. And if you decide to use your workplace as your personal singles bar, hopping from one office romance to another, you may just end up hopping out the door with your desk gear packed in a cardboard box and a pink slip in your pocket.
Sometimes you have to move for that job you finally landed. Moving someplace warm like Florida can be fun. Moving to someplace like South Dakota because it's the only job you could find after living back at home for almost six months and you can't defer your student loans any longer - well, it could be fun. It's all attitude, right? Moving is no big deal; making all new friends, learning how to get from point A to B without getting lost, trying not to go completely broke because everything is three times as expensive as where you used to live - hey, this is the stuff of dreams.
I'm not even going to mention the big bummers like getting fired from that crappy job you hated. Or the chance that you might still be searching for Mr. Right as you take the long downhill turn into your thirties. And there's always the possibility that someone close to you might take the big sleep before you have the chance to say goodbye.
So go ahead, you fine young thing, roll your eyes behind my back when I don't throw my two quarters in your tip jar. One day, you might just find yourself in my shoes, walking the same chaotic mommying road in life and searching for an hour of tranquility in a tiny coffee house, too.
And if you're lucky enough to answer to the name Mommy, you'll understand why I need those quarters far more than you do; there is no greater grocery store bribe that a big, fat, sugary gumball.
And there is no greater equalizer than motherhood.
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