Surrounded by a Great Cloud of Witnesses in Target

Leeana Tankersley

As any mother knows, when your husband is traveling, and all your planning and creative strategies and Amazon Prime-ing have fallen through, you have to do the thing you are always trying to avoid at all costs: You have to take all your kids to Target with you.

That’s OK. We’re just going to zip in and zip out and be home before anyone even realizes it. I just need paper plates and dry shampoo (obviously).

Unfortunately, I had made the fatal error of getting my kids a Slurpee after school as a way to bribe them into good behavior. In retrospect, this was a terribly flawed plan because I basically gave them speedballs and then begged them to sit still.

I’m in the paper goods section, and I see that my Luke and Lane have pulled out all the oversized blocks of bulk toilet paper from the shelf, have stuffed Elle onto the shelf, and are now walling her in while she screams in horror and delight. Brick by brick. Entombed by Charmin. It was Poe’s Cask of Amontillado right there in the toilet paper aisle of Target.

A woman is standing by herself in this very same section and she is clearly horrified by my children. Not even horrified. Angry.

She begins talking about how horribly behaved my kids are, how awful the parenting is these days, and how these kids are going to hurt someone.

I froze. I could not think of one thing to say to her. I could only gather my kids awkwardly and get away.

As we walked away, I got teary as Lane asked, “Mom, what was that woman saying?” and I felt all my depletion rush into the moment. All of a sudden I couldn’t remember the last time I had taken a shower. I couldn’t remember if I was wearing a bra. I couldn’t remember what I had come to the store to get.

“She was being unkind,” I said. “And … you guys can’t destroy Target.”

I began thinking of all the things I could have said to her, and even considered marching back over to her with some select words:

I wish I would have asked her if she’d like to help instead of insult me. I wish I would have told her that I thought her shoes were horrible.

But I kept pushing my cart.

My phone rings.

“Hi, T.,” I say. It’s Tina calling.

“Hey, Lee, are you in Target? Laurel said she just saw you and the kids in another aisle.”

“Yes, I am in Target. I’m near the checkout.”

As I’m saying those words, Tina and her young daughter, Laurel, come into view, smiling, arms out.

“Are you OK?” she says right as she sees me, the look on my face clearly telling the whole story.

I tell her how a lady just tore me a new one in the toilet paper aisle.

And Tina immediately walks with me to the registers and helps herd the crew as waves of anxiety are still shocking through my body.

“Oh, Lee,” she says. “I want to go back and trip her.”

“Leedles,” I hear one of my many nicknames said in front of me?

I look up and there is Linsey. Alone.

“Are you OK?” she says, my face still obviously drained.

Tina rejoins me and tells Linsey the entire story. Of the lady. And the kids. While Linsey shakes her head and looks me right in the eye. Tina passes me and my crew off to Linsey.

Linsey takes my keys and two of my kids by the hand and stays with me all the way to my car. She helps kids get buckled in and she hugs me. Linsey doesn’t even like to hug. She says in my ear, “You’re doing it.”

Tina has known me since I was 11. Linsey has known me since I was 18. Two of my very best friends in the entire world just happened to be at the Rancho San Diego Target on a day when I was getting shredded by a stranger.

It’s practically intolerable to be so deeply disapproved of and to have to tell people about it all while being seen with greasy hair and lunatic children while, possibly, wearing no bra.

But I tolerate it. I have to. Love is taking my car keys and holding Elle’s hand. Love is putting my items in my cart and chatting with my kids. Love is handing me my purse. Love is asking me, “Is there anything else you need?” Love texts me later to check in.

St. John of the Cross wrote,

“What is grace,” I asked God.
And He said,
“All that happens.”

I have a hunch this might be true. I have a hunch that every wall could be a door. Even a toilet paper wall in Target reinforced by a woman’s awful words could become a door that leads to Love.

This excerpt was taken from Leeana’s newly released book, Begin Again: The Brave Practice of Releasing Hurt and Receiving Rest.


Leeana Tankersley HeadshotLeeana Tankersley is the author of four books including her newest, Begin Again: The Brave Practice of Releasing Hurt and Receiving Rest (use 50% off code: mopsba). She has three kids – Luke (9), Lane (9) and Elle (6). Leeana and her family live in San Diego, California. Learn more about her work at