It was a typical harried morning – Bee and I had ventured out to grab breakfast and meet with a girlfriend and her son before running errands for the day. After devouring our food, it was clear the babies weren’t going to allow for a casual, leisurely conversation. Instead, we battled toddler tears, baby fussiness and multiple beverage spills, finally throwing up our hands and bidding farewell before we did any more damage to our favorite local cafe. After my girlfriend headed to the bathroom for her son’s third diaper change, I started to clean up our table’s mess. And then, a woman appeared.
She was ordinary looking, with thick brown hair and cherub cheeks, but her eyes sang with empathy and experience. “Let me take over,” she requested.
I declined reluctantly as I juggled Bee on my hip with a stack of plates, napkins and mugs in hand. “You’re so kind, thank you, but I’m OK…” I said, trailing off as Bee knocked over the tower of dishes onto the floor and I dodged dirty glances from fellow patrons.
As I sighed in disbelief at how chaotic our morning had been, the kind woman kneeled over to pick up the dishes and began cleaning up our mess. As I tried to stop her, she gently patted my arm, looked into my eyes and said, “I remember.”
I wanted to ask her what she remembered – her own frantic mornings with babies? The ever-so-often need for three arms and four eyes when caring for children? The vortex of emotion that parenting can bring? But all I could muster was a quiet, “Thank you so much,” as I held back tears of relief and gratitude.
Soon after, my girlfriend returned from the bathroom to a clean table and we were granted 5 more minutes of visiting before the kids had, again, reached their limit. But this time, I had the strength of a stranger’s kindness with me. And as we packed up our diaper bags and strollers and car seats to head out the door, I gave a knowing smile to our guardian angel at the table nearby.
Because although she’ll always remember her own journey through motherhood, I’ll never forget how she transformed mine.