Until recently I never put a child in a shopping cart without working straps. I was always anal about making sure they were buckled in safely and securely. I’d read stories about children standing up to grab something and falling out, sustaining horrendous head trauma, and I just couldn’t deal with the thought of that happening to one of my girls.
But they’ve grown since. They’re smart and they know I’m not kidding when I tell them they have to stay sitting if they want to stay in the cart. And they’re good! They do what they’re told.
Last week the girls and I stopped at Trader Joes on our way home for a few staples (chocolate covered pretzels, Jojos…) and some pizza dough for dinner. We shopped quickly and hurried back out to the parking lot. I parked the cart on the sidewalk and told Little L to stay put while I went to unlock the car.
That’s when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the cart start to roll. I had assumed that the slight angle of the sidewalk wouldn’t be an issue, that Little L wouldn’t move. I hadn’t realized that if she shifted in her seat or moved her legs, that the cart would move from it’s spot and start to roll towards the curb. But it did.
I dropped everything I was holding and flew towards her, but I wasn’t fast enough. It felt like that horrible dream when you have to get somewhere, but you can’t snap out of slow motion. All I could see were the lose straps of the unsnapped restraints and look of pure terror on my baby’s face. I was less than two feet away, but the cart’s wheel had fallen off the curb and the cart itself had tipped over all the way long before I ever made it to her side.
I watched her little face as the cart went down, watched her head rush towards the cement sidewalk and not hit it. I don’t know how she didn’t split her skull open. I don’t even understand how she didn’t even touch the ground. All I know is that by some insane miracle she was fine.
One of us must have screamed because people came running from every which way. As they hurried over, time slipped back into regular mode and I was able to rush the last foot to her and scoop her out of the cart. She clutched at me like she was never going to let go, which was fine by me. Without loosening my grip I checked her little legs, her little arms, but everything was fine. The only casualty of the event was a box of whoopie pies that a store employee raced to replace.
We clung to each other until she started snuffling and asking for her lollipop. I found it stuck to her dress and peeled it off carefully. She popped it right back into her mouth, oblivious to the fuzz that coated one side, and buried her head back into the crook of my neck. I looked at the crowd of worried faces surrounding us and told everyone that she was fine, that we were fine, and reluctantly they all peeled away one by one.
With everyone gone and our groceries rescued from the cart there was nothing left to do other than put the girls in their car seats and head home. C busied herself making her sister laugh and I turned on the radio to listen to the traffic report. It all seemed so normal and routine. The only hint that anything had been wrong a moment ago were the tear tracks down Little L’s face, the knot in my stomach, and the bruises that appeared on her legs a day later.