I unloaded the groceries, sorting the perishables from the non-perishables.
"Happy Mother's Day," the cashier sang out when she had finished serving the man in front of me, even though I had no children by my side. Perhaps the contents of the cart gave me away, organic squeezable yogurts beside string cheese and generic store brand graham crackers, marking me out as clearly as a giant M tattooed on my forehead.
"Are you a mother too?" I asked, feeling a little foolish with my earnest wish to not cause offense by making the same presumption about her that she had made about me.
"Thank you," she replied not catching my question, just hearing "mother" and assuming it had been proceeded by "happy". And then we talked about our broods as she ran my items through the scanner.
"Did you get to celebrate before coming into work?" I asked and she told me about the lunch she'd enjoyed before starting the 3pm shift, the flowers she'd been given and the daughter who'd taken her out to dinner on Friday night. She told me about the three adult children who lived close by and the three who were further away. She told me about the daughter in Vegas who'd remembered to call her and the son in prison.
"I'm sorry," I said, not sure of what else to say. "Do you get to see him often?"
"Oh yes", she said. And then with a weary sigh "Hopefully he has learned this time."
And I hoped along with her.
"Actually I had seven children," she said "but I lost one."
A stillbirth at eight weeks.
"He'd be twenty-eight now if he had lived."
She placed the last paper bag in the cart and asked "Do you need help out?"
As quick as that we were done, back to the pleasantries.
"No, I'll be right thanks," I said, grabbing hold of the cart. "Happy Mother's Day."
I looked back. She hadn't heard me. She was busy chatting to the next customer in line.