I walked into my kitchen and heard the tail end of my husband and my son’s conversation. “You should withhold judgement. You do not know what someone’s intentions are,” my husband was telling my son. With my husband’s words I was brought back to the moment when I first learned about withholding judgment. I do not always withhold immediate judgment, but I try to remind myself of this childhood memory in order to give others the benefit of the doubt.
It was a dark December evening. There was frost covering almost every surface outside. My cousin and I were bundled up in out warmest coats as we sat in the backseat of my mother’s car. I was about five or six years old. My cousin was about two or three. As my mother drove, her sister sat in the passenger seat. We were headed to the convenience store so my aunt could buy milk and some other odds and ends she needed for her home. When we reached the brightly lit parking lot my aunt dashed out and ran against the frigid air to make her purchases leaving my mother, myself, and my cousin Daniel, to remain warm in the car.
She emerged from the store with a large paper bag in one arm and she held a gallon of milk in her other hand. The freezing air whipped through the car when she opened the passenger side door. She hurriedly placed the bag in the car and leaped in and closed the car door. A shiver ran through her body as she shook off the early bitter winter cold air.
As soon as my mother drove off a car honked their horn at us. My mother is not a patient person and she honked her horn longer and louder, as she whispered under her breath. She turned to my aunt and says in Spanish, ‘Is there anything wrong with the way I am driving? People can be such jerks.” My aunt defended her sister’s driving abilities and we made our way through town.
The familiar streets of my town looked eerie in the darkness. The once friendly buildings now seemed to loom over us as we drove by. As she passed through the streets there was more honking, which made the journey back to my aunt’s house hair-raising. My mother and her sister were not ones to back down from a presumed injustice. Therefore, as a car passed by and yet again we heard another loud honk, my aunt rolled down her window and screamed out-I can now only imagine the profanities.
The tension rose in the car. My mother and aunt were in full defense mode. They continued speaking in their native tongue at a much louder volume and much higher pitch, talking about how the people in this town must be crazy, and did they not notice they had children in the car to protect. The more we drove, the more frenzied they seemed to become.
We finally reached the traffic light right near my aunt’s home. I was so relieved that this ride was almost over. Then, out of nowhere, a car pulled right next to my aunt’s side of the car. Once again there was a honk, as the man rolled down his window. Furious, my aunt rolls down her window and shouts, “What do you want!?”
“You have a gallon of milk on the roof of your car.” the man says. The light turned green and he drove off.
My aunt flung her door open and frozen to the roof of the car was that gallon of milk she bought just a few moments ago. She pulled it loose and brought it into the car laughing. My mother began to laugh with her. By the time she drove the 20 feet to my aunt’s driveway, the both of them were laughing so hard they had tears rolling down their cheeks.
“All that time we thought people were being jerks and they just wanted to tell us I forgot my milk on the car. I didn’t even thank the guy who told us. I guess that makes us jerks.” My aunt replied as she was catching her breath, which just sent them into another fit of laugher.
We dropped off my aunt and cousin and made it home. My mother and I relayed the story to my father. He also laughed at the evening events then said, “You can’t always judge someone actions. It helps if you stop and listen.”