Sarah Diamond Burroway
To the woman at Food Fair who screamed at her child last Tuesday somewhere between the boxed cereal and the bread aisle:
She heard you.
You didn’t have to call her a little bitch, wrenching her arm behind her, sending hot rivers of tears down her dirty cheeks, washing away stains from a day spent sitting in straight rows, eyes forward, feet on the floor inside a dark classroom by the cafeteria where her federal free lunch of half a cheese sandwich, green peas, canned peaches and lukewarm two-percent milk is served five days a week promptly at 11:20 a.m.
No “Would you like some inspiration with that?”
No creativity on the side.
Only children. Holding square, plastic trays, marching to tables; tended like baby chicks in a pen. Teachers hover and cluck “Hurry and eat.” “Drink your milk.” No talking!”
She is barely five. And, she is hungry. She has questions.
“Where do crackers come from?” and
“Do fish sticks really live in the river?”
She needs answers. And hugs. And time to play with you and talk about ideas and places and things that would fill her mind instead of the worry and sorrow that creeps in when she is left to herself with no one to show her how to be a kid.
Children have a short shelf life. Before you can blink, it’s expired, and she’ll be all dented and past-date, just like you. What happened to “new and improved?” Where’s the happy? Look in aisle five, or maybe next to produce.
To the woman at Food Fair who screamed at her child last Tuesday evening: I know it’s hard to be poor and to feel like there’s nothing you can do about it. But you can do something about this living, breathing, smart girl who is hungry. For your attention. And to feel your arms swoop her from the floor and into the cart, even though she’s too big to ride in the buggy.
A girl who hangs on every word you say. Who wants to play and be loved. Who doesn’t understand why she can’t have a gumball from the machine in the lobby.
And… Why does it make you so mad when I ask, mommy? Yes, I heard you, mommy, please don’t yell. I’m sorry, mommy. My arm. Mommy, I promise I won’t cry…
If you just stop.
Sarah Diamond Burroway is a Kentucky writer. Her essays and poetry are included in the 2015 and 2016 Women of Appalachia Project. Sarah’s plays and monologues produced in New York, California, West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky. She is pursuing her Master of Fine Art in Writing at the Bluegrass Writers Studio at Eastern Kentucky University.
Photo credit: SUPERMARKET, 1960s. – A New York City supermarket.. Fine Art. Britannica ImageQuest. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 25 May 2016. http://quest.eb.com/search/140_1682494/1/140_1682494/cite. Accessed 17 Oct 2016.