The One With Rain on the Parade

I’m riding home from work on the subway. I’ve got my book open to a juicy part, but today I just can’t get into it. It’s mostly due to the little girl on the other side of the subway car.

She’s about three years old, full of energy. The kind of energy I wish I could bottle and sell. Next to the girl is her mother, who is holding onto her purse, a grocery bag, an umbrella (though it isn’t raining), a duffle bag, and her daughter’s pink backpack. The mother looks tired, exhausted really. This is difficult to explain to a three-year-old. The girl wiggles in her seat, with her feet dangling just over the edge, like she’s got ants in her pants, as my grandfather use to say,

People around her, including me, smile a bit at her joie de vivre, and then return to subway survival rule number one: no eye contact. But she’s emboldened by the attention and begins to sing. It’s a tuneless melody she’d belting out full force. One man takes up her cause. He claps and shimmies in his seat, and they begin a strange dance-off where he shows off some moves and then challenges her to outdo him. She shrieks with glee.

Her mother is not gleeful. In fact, she’s barely holding it together, but the man doesn’t notice. It seems that she’s trying to be polite, though the last thing she wants to do is rile her daughter up even more. Finally after fifteen minutes, we come to the man’s stop. He waves at the girl with a big smile and exits the car as the doors open.

“He’s getting off, Momma! Bye! Bye! Bye! Bye! Bye! Bye!” she yells. “I see him! He’s walking away!”

She hops off her seat and tries to make a break for it, but her mother apparently has the reflexes of a leopard—surprising, given all that she’s carrying. Her mother grabs her arm. “Sit down,” she says through gritted teeth.

NYC Subway

The girl barely hears her, but climbs onto her seat and kneels so she can look out the window. “I see him, Momma! I see him!”  Her toes are hammering against the seat. She’s bouncing so much she knocks into the woman on the other side of her.

It’s sweet and charming, but everyone in the subway car would like for her to quiet down now. We’re tired too and we’ve had a long day at work and we just need a little time to decompress. Or maybe I’m projecting. But the girl’s mother is barely containing herself. Her jaw is so firm it could be wired shut. “I said, sit down.” She turns the girl around and puts her butt in the seat. The girl is snapped back into reality with her new playmate gone and her mother angry. The abrupt shift in tone causes her to do a double take. For a beat, she looks around, wide-eyed. Then she begins to cry.

I feel a bit sad myself. I wonder if it’s the first time she’s ever experienced this in her short life—one moment she’s blissing out, and the next someone is raining on her parade.

This will happen to her over and over again. She’s having a laugh at the office water cooler when someone dumps a report on her desk due tomorrow morning. She’s looking forward to the holidays only to find out her in-laws are coming—for the whole week. Her number is next after waiting thirty minutes at the Ikea returns counter just as the clerks take their lunch break.

These kinds of cosmic bummers intrude throughout our lives. Sometimes I find myself still upset or annoyed hours later. I try to accept the situation so I can more quickly return to an even keel, like a boat righting itself in rough waves, but it takes a lot of practice. For a moment I envy this little girl because right there in the middle of rush hour, she cries, big gloppy tears, and then it’s over.

She’s smiling and asking her mother for a juice box. She’ll go home and play with her dolls and brush her teeth, the let-down all but forgotten. I wonder how long she’ll be able to do this—rebound so quickly.  I hope it’s a long, long time.

Do you let go of minor disappointments quickly? Share your secret!

Have a great weekend, everyone!  

 

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38 comments

  1. Small disappointments are easier for me to shrug off (larger not so easy) as long as too many don’t happen in one day. If it is the kind of day or week when lots of things pile up one after the other, I try to spend some time totally alone, walking or in a beautiful place in nature. That usually helps me clear my mind. But like you, it takes a lot of practice and intention. (p.s. Clearly I don’t know the details of this woman’s life, but I can’t help feeling bad for this little girl… I know the mom might have had a bad day, but… maybe her daughter did too and kids may seem to rebound quickly but I worry over the long haul.)

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    1. I hear you — when these little disappointments pile up over the course of a day or a week, it gets harder to shrug them off. Finding a few minutes to spend in the outdoors is a wonderful suggestion. Your sunrise harbor photos are the perfect antidote! 🙂

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  2. I think the older I get the easier it is to let go of minor disappointments. I’m just too tired to focus on them. Great job describing this. I could picture the girl.

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  3. I wish I knew the secret to shrugging off life’s disappointments! Some temperaments (like my husband’s) find it easier to move on. For better or for worse–I can not. I suppose there is a benefit sometimes to clinging to our disappointment, but most of the time it seems like a hindrance. Great post, Jackie–as always.

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  4. Jackie, you describe this scene so well, I felt like I was there. It’s true, life has lots of disappointments in store for that little one. But plenty of joy, too. When major disappointments come my way I let myself wallow a bit, and feel what I’m feeling. Usually there’s something to take away from setbacks – though it’s often difficult to see what it is in the throes. Like Julia says in her comment above, time alone, or in nature helps—or the company of a very good friend.

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    1. That’s a wonderful suggestion, Cynthia. Being in the company of a good friend is a great way to divert my attention. It keeps my mind from replaying the “tape” over and over. Going to a movie can be a good diversion also.

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  5. Kid running around the restaurant last night all excited – smacks her head on the corner of the table next to us. Screams the place down. Parents mortified. Hey ho – the kid learns a lesson as do the parents. We skip pudding due to the noise. Time and a place I suppose. Great post. We should all be children in public!

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  6. Hi Jackie,

    I enjoy receiving and reading your Friday blog posts particularly today’s post. Your description of the scene on the subway is so compelling that I was right there with you.

    Some time ago, you redesigned your website and I really like it. Do you happen to know the name of the typeface?

    Thank you for your blog stories. Fridays are always nicer because of them.

    Cheers,

    Karen Greenstadt ………………………………………………………………………………………….

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  7. I am so impressed that you were able to write such a brilliant post about life’s ups and downs using a common occurrence as a springboard. Had I been riding on that same train instead of you, that kid’s antics would have prompted me to donate $100 to Planned Parenthood the second I got home.

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  8. My mam’s friend has a nice saying – what’s meant for you won’t pass you by. So I let go of disappointments quite quickly. Something else will come along and it will be the thing you’re supposed to be doing 🙂
    Lovely story – I was grinning at a kid yesterday on the metro, he was grinning back then he started to cry for no reason. Kids. 😉

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  9. I think if we were all free enough to shed ” big gloppy tears” we could rebound better. Express and move on..be free. But somewhere along the lines of growing up, we are taught not to do that. Why? We’d feel so much better, full unbridled laughter or tears, same release. Great piece!

    I am a bottler until I explode like a can of shaken soda.

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    1. Small children don’t seem to have that sense of “embarrassment” or worry about what other people think. You make a great point — if we adults could allow ourselves to do the same, we would feel much better. Maybe I was a bit jealous of this little girl for having that freedom. 🙂

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    1. Yes! Dogs and cats are such great caregivers in this way. Reggie often looks at me and yawns, almost as if to say, aren’t we done with rehashing this yet? 🙂 He definitely helps me put things in perspective.

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  10. This was captivating, I really enjoyed reading it.
    It couldn’t have been easy for the mother.
    I think when someone rains on my parade unintentionally, I don’t get that upset but some people really try to ruin it for others.

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    1. I think others don’t often set out to rain on someone’s parade. I’ve found it’s usually a very subconscious thing. They don’t even realize they’re doing it. All the more reason to let it go quickly. Great point, Caroline!

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  11. Oh that is an interesting observation– to see someone move on. I really have to force myself not to dwell on things . . . whether with people or just situations in general. It’s a choice. I tell myself– MOVE ON. Not always easy!

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