I have squeezed his shoulder with the Vulcan death grip. I have growled low and almost yelled out “I am Mommy, hear me roar!” I have stared him down and let him know not to cross me.

All this in the middle of the grocery.

He sits next to his little sister, too close for comfort today. They are playing a mean game of footsy and, boy, they are mouthy. I see the scowls on shoppers’ faces, telling me I’m not doing enough. My brain goes like a dot matrix printer etching out my defense. These noisy things in my cart aren’t robots moved about by Mommy’s secret remote control. They are individuals, little people with big wills and loud voices.

We round an end cap and it is our character flaws on display. I want to cry. It wouldn’t be new; I’ve cried in public more times than I can count. I’m a soul born without armor and the makeshift do-it-yourself exterior seems to crack under pressure. I put my hands to the steel curves of the cart and push along.

I think of Rosie Jetson with that round motherly metal, the square smile and those dialed-in eyes, sympathetic, unjudging. If I could be that sturdy…. If I could find that kind of help….

I come to reality with a slap on the face, big brother leaving pink on the cheek of little sister. I don’t know what comes over me, but I feel calm for a minute and find the clarity of mind to put my go-to disciplinary plan in gear.

I look him in the eye, gently this time, and tell him to do the same to her. I point to the mark on her face. He takes the time to show he knows what he’s done, then frames her face with his hands and asks her to forgive.

Just as they hug, I hear a little voice from behind. “You did that just right,” the mystery woman says, “the way you had him look into her eyes while he asked for forgiveness.” I turn toward her, this petite force of grace. I can’t see the smile on her face. It hides behind a homemade medical mask.

My eyes water up at this unexpected word, this healthy helping of kindness from an ailing woman.

I look down at the hem of her charcoal gray frock. I want to tell her about the fire in my chest and the clenching of my fists and my near roar, how I am undone, undeserving.

“I haven’t been so good today,” I admit out loud, the sudden kindness leading me to repentance. Gray hair peeks out from the mesh bonnet that covers her head. She in her plain-people clothing and me in my jeans, we stand still in the lavish truth that “He has not dealt with us according to our sins.”

And I’ve found grace in the grocery store.

(Psalm 103:10, Romans 2:4)