Sunday, May 13, 2012

Red Flannels

I hurried into the drugstore and collapsed the borrowed umbrella.  The night sky was pouring out rain like there was no tomorrow, but inside it was dry and bright.  As I hurried over to the appropriate aisle to grab a couple of pints of Blue Bell, I glanced at the line forming at the checkout counter.  My sister was waiting in the car.  It might be a long wait.

I patiently took my position in line behind 3 others and scanned the immediate area.  There was a tall, older man at the front of the line.  He seemed to be in a good mood despite the weather and the lateness of the evening.  We had missed closing time at the first store we stopped at by 10 minutes. The cashier was called away from her post for a moment.   My eyes wandered distractedly to the floor.

I noticed the shoes first.  Tennis shoes.  The kind that kids wear.  Then the pants.  The ensemble was topped off with a plain white tee shirt.  But it was the pants that drew my attention.  They were red plaid flannel pajama pants, the kind that even adults wear out in public.  I shook my head.  What can be said about a culture that accepts pajamas as appropriate street wear?  We have gone past informal to ridiculous.  I wondered if this middle schooler would wear pajamas to a job interview. 

Then, in the middle of my rant, my eyes were drawn to the counter.  There lay a small package of inexpensive chocolates, and underneath, a Mother's Day card.  He handed the cashier a ten dollar bill, received his change, and vanished into the dark and the rain.

I won't forget him.  Or the mother that inspired him to brave the weather to express his love for her in a simple way.  I wish I had had the time to say something to him, to thank him for inspiring me.  But those moments had been wasted.  In my inner tirade about fashion, I had missed the glorious humanity that stood before me, the act of love that was unfolding.

I had dashed in for ice cream, but left with something much more substantial in my soul: the picture of a young man who braved a rainy night to find a gift to express his love for his mom. 

In red plaid flannel pajama pants.