I saw her in a parking lot. Her kids were fussing. She had a toddler in a stroller who was howling.
Her attention was on the screaming baby, she didn’t notice her shopping buggy rolling downhill.
I did. So I jogged after it and caught the cart before it smacked the side of a very white, very shiny, very BMW.
She gave me a quick smile and a frantic “Ohmygodthankyousomuch.”
Then, she buckled her three kids into an economy car—a vehicle with rust around the wheel-wells. When she did, she spilled her purse.
God love her.
She threw her head into her hands. She stayed like that a little while. I don’t know whether she was crying, but she sure as hell deserved to.
It wasn’t long ago, I knew a woman like her. A woman who raised two kids on a shoestring, and struggled for every nickel.
The same woman who taught me how to spell my name. And how to say “yes ma’am” and “yessir” to elders.
She once met a Mexican woman at Bible study. The woman was single, she had a partially deaf son, she lived in a dilapidated apartment, she worked three jobs. She had no car.
Mama carried her to and from Bible study. They made fast friends.
One spring morning, my mother took me for a drive. We rode dirt roads until we landed in an automobile graveyard. At the end of a long driveway were miles of broken vehicles surrounded by weeds and barbed-wire fences.
A man in overalls greeted Mama. He led us to a barn where he kept a ‘68 Ford Bronco—with rust on the wheel-wells and a cracked windshield.
She handed him a wad of cash.
He handed her keys. “Gott’er running,” he said. “Good truck if you ain’t going far.”
We weren’t going far. Mama drove the thing home and parked it in our driveway.
That night, Mama made a big supper, she brought the woman and her kids to our house. She deep-fried a bird in peanut oil and made biscuits.
When we finished eating, Mama took her outside and gave her a set of keys.
The woman covered her mouth and said, “Dios mio.”
I’ll never forget those strange words.
Together, they cried for nearly thirty minutes. It was the hard kind of sobbing. The kind that comes from the belly.
My mother looked ten-feet tall and Kevlar.
Anyway, I watched the woman in the parking lot gather her spilled things. Her kids still hollering. She finally drove away, and God knows where she’s going, or what time she’ll get supper on the table.
I don’t know what her struggles are, or how she makes ends meet. I don’t know if she feels like a failure sometimes, or if she cries when nobody is looking.
But I know one thing:
Those kids are rich.
And so am I.