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Impulse Buys

By Sunu P. Chandy

On the drive home from a week-long family meditation camp, the next available bathroom break for our nine-year-old daughter was at an in-door, out-door Pennsylvania flea market.

Inside the market, we were drawn to all manner of colorful knickknacks, handmade soaps, and so many kinds of toys. After using the facilities, the kiddo asked if we could peruse a few of these booths. Recalling my week of training on mindful, be-in-the-moment parenting, and to my child’s surprise, I agreed. After we smelled the lavender soap, the lemon soap, and the peppermint soap, she spotted a booth with thousands of shiny rocks and pebbles. This kid had a daily habit of selecting five small stones from the schoolyard and asking if she could bring them all home. When I limited this to one, she would reluctantly land on just one to bring home each day—carefully studying each one’s crystals, stripes, and colors before deciding on the one.

At the shiny stones and rocks booth, I am unusually patient. I even consider spending a few dollars on a few pebbles. She seemed to sense that, without me saying a word, and I could feel her heart smile.

And then in one instant, everything changed. Looking toward the cashier, she saw, just hanging out there on the wall, real guns in real life.

Even after all the school lockdown drills of, We will give you candy if you stay in the closet together and be real quiet, and all the TV news of schools shootings, she had yet to witness real guns in real life.

She immediately dropped the pebbles and pleaded, Amma, let’s go. Please, Amma, let’s get back in the car right now.

My spouse and her car keys were somewhere in the area but not easily found, and so we quickly walked toward the furthest end of the parking lot. All the while, the kiddo looked back at this building that contained the fragrant homemade soaps, the toys, the shiny stones, and the guns.

This child, who knows I don’t even approve of water guns. This child, who reports back to me, nervously, after she plays even marginally violent video games at friends’ homes, appeared shocked at my seeming nonchalance.

I tried to form the right mindful, loving parent words to say everything was okay, that we were okay.

Yet, I was so half-hearted in my reassurance, that we just kept moving away, as far away as we could. For, in the end, I just wasn’t sure, if her level of terror was more accurate than mine.




Listen as Sunu P. Chandy readsImpulse Buys.”

Added: Wednesday, March 29, 2023  /  Used with permission. This poem first appeared in print in Sunu P. Chandy's poetry collection "My Dear Comrades" (Regal House, 2023).
Sunu P. Chandy
Photo by Fid Thompson.

Sunu P. Chandy (she/her) is a social justice activist both as a poet and a civil rights attorney. Regal House published her collection of poems, My Dear Comrades, in March 2023. Sunu’s other publications include pieces in Asian American Literary Review, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Poets on Adoption, and in anthologies including The Penguin Book of Indian Poets, The Long Devotion: Poets Writing Motherhood and This Bridge We Call Home: Radical Visions for Transformation. Sunu works at the National Women’s Law Center, and is a board member with the Transgender Law Center. Sunu was honored as one the 2021 Queer Women of Washington. Sunu is delighted to be in community with friends, old and new, as we connect around our creative work and find greater solidarity. 

Image Description: A black and white photo of Sunu P. Chandy. She wears a black T-shirt and a South Asian scarf draped on one of her shoulders. Without question, she is smiling. She is not wearing a necklace, but she has on a sparkly nose pin and lipstick.

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