I had a boyfriend in college. With the advantage of lots and lots of years of hindsight, I can tell you that he was a nice guy, but not a terribly good boyfriend. He had a routine for handling his many indiscretions. He would bring me a red rose, look at me with sincere regret, and announce, "the bottom line is, I love you and I don't want to lose you." He was a bottom line kind of guy. Then he would tell me what he'd done and we would both cry and I would forgive him and life would go on until the next chippy turned his head. It got to the point where my stomach would clench in a Pavlovian response every time I saw him approaching my house with a rose.
We broke up shortly before graduation - the last chippy to turn his head turned it real good. When I went back to my house after the ceremony, I found a red rose on my desk and a note that said, "I'll always love you." I didn't stop crying for days. I knew what red roses meant.
I find myself experiencing that same sense of dread now when I come home from the grocery store and my eldest helps me unload and put away the groceries without being asked. It almost never ends well. I can almost see the red rose in her hand in place of the canvas shopping bag. I keep expecting her to say, "the bottom line is, Mom....." She doesn't - how creepy would that be? - but something is usually still said. Oh yes, something is said.
Trojan horses, right? It looks like I'm getting something good, and when I let my defenses down, I get annihilated.
That boy grew up. He married the final chippy. I like to think he takes her flowers from time to time, and that they mean nothing more than - "I love you". My girl will grow up, too. The grocery bag confessions will turn into funny stories we tell around the table when her kids are teens.
Till then, I guess I'll just need to remind myself to slow down every now and then and regain perspective. I won't stop to smell the roses, though. And that? Is the bottom line.