It was a warm summer Saturday at the end of August, my favorite time of the year, when I saw HIM. My mind almost didn't
register his presence admist my feeling of basking in the season. After all, I love the impending feel of Fall in the air,
the change from scorching, humid nights to warm, fresh-smelling, open-window, best sleeping evenings. I loved the smell of
paper and pencils permeating the stores and the cheery "Back to School" signs and the giant cut-out apples hanging
The name Brian Littrell and Walmart in the middle of Sandusky, Ohio wasn't a combination that I really thought possible.
Yet, there he was hanging around by the $5.00 bin of DVDs, all giant sneakers and slightly-receding-hairline aside, not
looking much older than the last time we were face-to-face. Almost twenty years. Twenty! It didn't seem possible. I didn't
feel like I was thirty-six, ninety-two days shy of thirty-seven.
I was rooted in place, the knuckles on my fingers wrapped around the bright blue shopping cart practically turning white.
My cart was loaded to the brim, with a 30-pound bag of dog food and an econo-size box of tampons (tampons!) holding reign
on top of it all. I know I must have looked ridiculous, the whole package, all frizzle-haired, pajama clad, menustrating,
open mouthed me.
My armpits began to sweat the second he looked my way. In a split second half of me hoped he would recognize me while the
other half prayed he wouldn't, and another half (defying the logic of math, I know), praying that if he did
recognize me that one of those 'licious' shows on the Style channel would surround me and make me beautiful before he ran
off screaming in fright and asking himself what he ever saw in me.
The nickname was laced with affection, the kind of affection that makes a woman all dizzy and threatens to make her go into
Scarlett O'Hara mode.
He strode towards me, all five feet five inches of me frozen in time and place, and I got a good look at him. Little laugh
lines danced at the corner of his beautiful blue eyes. His hair was a lighter shade of blonde than I remembered, but that
was no doubt attributed to a professional hairstylist. As I had observed before, his hair was thining, but in such a way
that he could successfully continue to hide it for at least another five to ten years. His smile was still enough to melt
even the Grinch's heart.
"Is that really you?" he asked.
Oh shit. Pajamas. Hair. Possible food stuck in my teeth. My narrowed eyes due to my need, but total reluctance,
to get glasses.
My mouth moved and my voice said his name. He was so much more put together than I was, his white t-shirt looking spotless
and crisp, his jeans slightly baggy, and those huge sneakers...he looked so much younger than thirty-seven. His sex appeal
rating was high on my radar, but--
"Do you live here now?" he asked. "In Sandusky? You look great."
The boy had never been a good liar, but he must have improved his skills over the years because I knew I looked horrendous.
Besides the dishelvement, I wasn't sure I was actually blinking.
"Those must be the huge-a-mongiest shoes I've ever seen. Coley, look!"
Oh, and the kids. In the span of time since my cart skidded to a stop next to a picture of a giant video game character
who was still smiling at me with too-white, too-huge teeth and these giant Domino Droid hands pressed up mime-like as if
trying to escape the glass case, I had forgotten I had children. Children that I was meeting up with in the Electronics
Department. Minor oversight, right?
A dirt-streaked face peered up at Brian, her green eyes wide and her light brown pigtails totally askew. One strap of her
overalls was hanging limp, totally undone, and her Strawberry Shortcake shirt had seen much better days. Her five favorite
fingers, those on her right hand that she held up to everyone to proclaim her age, were locked into those of her
"Tibby," Cole scowled.
Colton, my not-so-little boy. Twelve going on thirteen in just a few short weeks scowled, obviously embarassed at his
little sister's reaction. His own jeans were slashed in the knee and the WWE t-shirt he wore that was one time as white as
Brian's so-clean shirt was practically gray. His shoes, much smaller and untied, had a piece of duct tape on the back.
Never had I taken so much stock in my children's attire. Egads. All three of us had much better clothes at home.
What the hell was I thinking taking us all out like this?
"Mom, didja get the poop-corn?" Tibby said, her eyes darting to me before returning to the shoes. Struggling against her
brothers hand, she squatted down. "They look all glow-y in the dark."
Ah, yes, now I remembered why we were out like this. Once a year ever since Cole was five, I had picked one night before
school where I'd let him stay up as late as possible. We'd watch a movie, pop some popcorn, and make stove-smores until we
passed out. Tibby was joining the fun for the first time ever and I, scatterbrained mom of the year, had forgotten to buy
Thus, a ten p.m. Walmart run in whatever the hell we were wearing.
"These don't glow in the dark, but I have a couple pair that do."
Brian. Shit, he was still there. He hadn't run off. I changed a glance at him under my lashes. As if on cue, he
looked at me, a clear sheen of amusement etched on his face.
"She looks so much like you there's no doubt this one's your daughter," he said.
Trying to pull together my manners, I removed my hands from the cart and put a hand on Cole's shoulder, pressing down
slightly to try to remove the scowl from his face.
"This is my son Colton. He's twelve---thirteen soon," I added as he swung in his light brown eyes my way. "And you're
right. This is Tabitha, my daughter."
"I'm five," she said, using the fingers on her second most favoritest hand to flash up at him. "And I'm Tib-
"Tubby Tibby," Cole muttered under his breath.
A brillant red came over my little one's already flushed face. "Moooo---ooooommm!"
"Cole, you know what I said about that," I said, mom instinct flooding through me after my previous Harlequin-moment.
"Tibby, it's okay."
She didn't answer, but she did manage to get her hand out of Cole's grasp. She folded her arms and plopped right down on
the floor, preceding to poke Brian's shoe. I saw a distinct pinch of the inside of his left cheek.
"Dad, come on!"
Sailing at us on those annoying roller-skate shoes, a blonde-mopped boy skidded to a stop beside Brian. He was carrying a
fishing pole, the length of it tilted up and over his shoulder.
"Just a second, Bay," Brian said affectionately. He looked at me and did his own version of the shoulder-squeeze on the
boy. "This is my son Baylee. He's nine---ten in November."
"He looks just like you," I said softly.
"Why's that girl poking your shoes?"
"Can we go now?" Baylee and Colton said at the same time. They looked at each other suspiciously.
Brian's eyes met mine. Almost twenty years. Parents. Worlds apart.
"It seems like just yesterday," he said gently.
"I know," I whispered, the impact of it hitting me all at once like a punch to my blindside.
My yesterday was standing right in front of me.
And all the memories came flooding back.