Home > Sweet Thing (Sweet Thing #1)

Sweet Thing (Sweet Thing #1)
Author: Renee Carlino


Airports are the great human distribution factories and people-watching here can provide a writer with infinite possibilities. Every second there is a new, brief snapshot of humanity; it’s an endless stream of fodder. In fact, next to me in the security line at this very moment there is a Tibetan monk, standing perfectly still and wearing his patience like a mask; a mother discretely nursing her baby; and a Marine, looking sharp and prideful in his best dress blues. I wonder where they are headed today and for the rest of their lives. I wonder if I can discover something unique and worth writing about by simply observing them in line. As I watch, I think about the imagery I will create, the picture I want to paint. I imagine colorful words dancing across the page. My hand twitches from the desire to jot down the details pooling in my head.

“Do you need a hand?”

I’m jolted out of my trance and realize my kids are bouncing around, the security agent is barking, I’m holding up the line, and we’re all still wearing our shoes. Shit.

The face belonging to that voice looks to be that of a woman in her mid-twenties; her long dark hair is pulled back into a flawless ponytail. She’s dressed in what I would call monochromatic collegiate wear; basically she looks like a Gap ad, and she’s holding a little gray bin with her shoes and belongings nestled perfectly inside it. The dark eyebrows that frame her big, round, hazel eyes are arched, waiting for my response.

“Yes! Please! Will you grab his shoes?” I point to my three-year-old son. “Would you mind carrying him up there for me?”

“No problem.”

On the other side of the metal detectors I study the girl while we put shoes on the boys.

“What’s your name, kid?” She has a fairy-like voice, but her choice of words is anything but.


“Cool name,” she says and appears to truly mean it. “I’m Mia—nice to meet you.”

“I’m Hayden!” Shouted my four-year-old.

“I like your name, too.”

I stand up and introduce myself. “Hi, Mia, I’m Lauren. Thanks for your help—motherhood is crazy.”

I inspect her appearance and feel unusually drawn to her. She’s thin, fit, her skin vibrant and her face calm. I see something in her that resembles the me of ten years ago. She’s so put-together, just like I was at that age; it’s those few years right before the real world gives you a swift kick in the ass. I thought about cutting my head open and spilling the contents into hers so that she could skip over the impending crap I knew she would soon face. The problem with that idea is that wisdom is not the same as information; it’s something entirely different. It’s often mistaken for good advice, but wisdom cannot be imparted to someone. Wisdom can only be earned; it’s a by-product of experience, not necessarily knowledge, otherwise I would be stalking Oprah right now, begging for a transfusion.

Maybe your early twenties were about wearing Daisy Dukes, withdrawing from a zillion college courses, changing your major five times, one-night stands, alcohol poisoning, having sex with your neighbor while his girlfriend watched, dating a distant cousin, cocaine, bad credit, or bad eye shadow; either way, by twenty-five most of us started thinking about other things. The big questions… what do you want to do with the rest of your life? Who will you marry if you marry at all? What career will you choose? Do you want children? It seemed like everything I knew at twenty-five morphed into everything I didn’t know by twenty-six, when I was suddenly hit with the realization that many of the decisions we make in our twenties… are permanent.

Those decisions seem easy for some, and sure, you could say those people are just the shallow puddles we trudge through, but I would argue that those people are lucky, because right now as I watch this girl, the past me, looking serenely self-possessed, I know that she is standing on a great precipice. I can tell by looking at her that she is the still water you only ever skip rocks over. The world as she knows it is about to be turned upside down and if she doesn’t learn to swim, her own depth will drown her. I feel a strong desire to whisper “surrender,” but I don’t. Like everyone in this airport, she is headed somewhere, possibly the first stop on that brutal journey of self-discovery. Like the rest of us, she will have to learn the hard way that we are not always in control. Sometimes it takes the love of others to show us who we really are.

Navigating an airport with two small children is no easy task and before I get on that plane, I’ll wonder if I packed enough snacks, if the DVD player is charged enough, or if I’ll have enough energy to rock my thirty-pound toddler in the space between the smelly lavatory and flight attendants’ station. As I chase my kids around, trying to squeeze Benadryl into their tiny mouths, I wonder if the decisions I made in my twenties were right for me. Will my marriage endure the test of time? Am I a good mother, wife, writer, neighbor, dog owner? Then I remember the journey that brought me to those decisions and that memory gives me great solace, because the memory is a reminder of who I am among all the chaos that is life.

Before I head to my gate, I look over at Mia and wonder what she thinks of me, all frazzled and disheveled with food stains on my clothes. I wonder if she knows that sometimes we figure things out and then life changes and we have to figure it all out again. I’m sure she’ll learn that soon enough and I’m sure she’ll have her own story to tell…

Track 1: Fledglings

The airport security agent was losing his patience. “Ma’am, I said you need to remove your shoes and place them into the bins.” She wasn’t intentionally ignoring him; she was preoccupied, well, more like staring into space. If we were graded on how efficiently we removed our belongings to place in those little gray bins, I would have gotten an A plus. The woman in front of me, however, was failing miserably. Her two children were running around, screaming like banshees, while she appeared to be… daydreaming.

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