She has two girls, ages four and six. They eat supper; she does dishes. They watch Netflix; she does laundry.

You’ve met her before. You know her—sort of. You just haven’t had a chance to talk to her yet. Most people don’t get that chance.

That’s because she’s a behind-the-scenes woman. She’s hardworking. She’s busy.

Most days, she’s at the elementary school, cleaning. She even works Saturdays. She is there when the first employee arrives; she is there after the last one leaves. She is there when others enjoy the weekend.

She begins each day with an energy drink. She pushes her custodian cart through hallways. She empties trash, picks up refuse, cleans the lunchroom.

She scrubs windows, desks, walls, and toilets. She vacuums classrooms, buffs floors, changes light bulbs, and even cleans up vomit during stomach-bug season.

When the sun is sinking, you’ll see her out by the school dumpster pausing for a breather.

After she clocks out, she drives to Walmart. There, she buys a roasted chicken—the biggest one they have—and a few cans of vegetables. It’s not exactly supper fit for kings, but it’s for her family.

Speaking of family. After Walmart, she drives to the babysitter’s house to pick up her kids. Her children run to her when they see her. They love their mama. And she loves them. In fact, these aren’t just her kids, these are her greatest achievements.

She left a bad marriage to give them the moon. She works two jobs to make sure they have decent clothes.

She has two girls, ages four and six. They eat supper; she does dishes. They watch Netflix; she does laundry.

They fall asleep. She carries them into bedrooms. She dresses them in Disney pajamas. She tucks them in. And after she turns off bedroom lights, she watches their faces for a long time.

She can’t get over how precious they are. When they were babies, people said the joys of new motherhood would eventually wear off. They haven’t.

She closes their door. She still has work to do. She brews coffee, cracks open textbooks. She is enrolled in online college. She does homework until she is purple in the face. She takes an Earth Science exam; she scores an 82. Her English 2 homework; she score a 95.

College isn’t difficult, just time consuming. Getting a GED was MUCH harder. She dropped out of high school at age seventeen and didn’t go back until a lifetime later. She had to start from Square One to get that GED.

And now she is on her last college semester before she’ll have an Associates degree.

A real, honest-to-God degree.

That will be a big day. There will be nobody to celebrate with her except for her two kids, but it will be a big day nonetheless. The graduation ceremony will end, and they will go out for Mexican. Mama might even have a margarita.

Next semester, the real schooling starts. She’ll begin with the basic anatomy classes, chemistry, computer. It won’t be long before she’ll be ready for clinicals.

And if all goes well, in a few years her kids will be able to watch their mother wear a stethoscope for a living.

She tries not to think about that. She wants to stay focused on today, not tomorrow. So, she tries not to think about the light at the end of the tunnel. She doesn’t think about what it will feel like to be called “nurse.”

She doesn’t let herself think about what it will be like to finish school. She only lets herself think about work at the elementary school tomorrow. She thinks about Walmart rotisserie chicken.

You’ve seen her. You’ve waved to her. You’ve passed her in traffic. She goes unnoticed to some. To some—she’s a woman with a push broom. But that’s okay. To her two girls, she is the most important human ever manufactured by Heaven.

She blushes easily. She doesn’t like attention. In fact, she says she’d probably die from embarrassment if anyone were to ever, say, write about how beautiful she is.

Well. Tough.

17 comments

  1. CaroG87 - May 13, 2018 11:35 am

    God bless that sweet woman and her babies!

    Reply
  2. Dianne - May 13, 2018 11:49 am

    Thank you, Sean, for another wonderful and uplifting story!

    Reply
  3. Sandra Smith - May 13, 2018 12:10 pm

    Sean,
    In many ways, this is MY story.
    My kid’s grew up, with a Mom who was a Nurse tho, and it paid the bills. I missed Santa a few times, and the Easter Bunny, and I still hate that it happened, but years later, after my two were older, I volunteered to work those days, so other Nurse’s could be home with little ones.
    It was truly, an honor, too…because, Nursing not only fed my family, it fed my soul.
    ❤❤❤

    Reply
  4. Jack Darnell - May 13, 2018 1:21 pm

    I love it when you describe people I know! SWEET!

    Reply
  5. Marism - May 13, 2018 1:41 pm

    A great story & tribute to Nuses Week as well as Mother’s Day!

    Reply
  6. Edna B. - May 13, 2018 1:43 pm

    This is beautiful, Sean. Thank you from all us mothers. And yes, our children are our greatest achievements. You have an awesome day, hugs, Edna B.

    Reply
  7. Pat - May 13, 2018 1:50 pm

    This made me cry. So beautiful! It is much later in life sometimes before we realize the sacrifices our mamas make. I know mine made sacrifices that are almost unbelievable. Happy Mother’s Day sweet lady. You are being noticed!!

    Reply
  8. Jack Quanstrum - May 13, 2018 1:50 pm

    What a tribute to all Mothers. Great story for a special day.

    Reply
  9. Julie - May 13, 2018 2:39 pm

    This hit home, except I studied for my master’s degree and skipped eating supper so the kids had enough food. When I graduated, I asked the kids what they would remember. My daughter, then 7, said, “I now know that I can do anything I want, because I just saw you do it.” Amen.

    Reply
  10. Lori - May 13, 2018 3:08 pm

    Love your writing Sean, but love your spirit even more. Keep the great stories coming! They brighten my days!

    Reply
  11. Anna - May 13, 2018 11:12 pm

    What a wonderful to all the Mothers on their special day. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
  12. Steve Welch - May 14, 2018 3:31 am

    Damn you Sean! Once again I read your piece only to get the misty eye. Allergy season is still on us I guess.

    You had no way of knowing my 84 year old mother lies dying today in a hospital bed in the dinning room of her home under Hospice care. Her kidneys have shut down long ago, and she is so sick that she no longer has the blood pressure necessary to do dialysis, so my 90 year old dad brought her home, stopped dialysis and sits by her bed several times a day for an hour just holding her hand. Sixty-six years together. He says that they have had only one argument in 66 years. He says the argument started on August 9, 1952, and has been going on ever since. He sat by her bed today and cried because he said he has no idea what he is going to do when she is gone.

    The doctor says without dialysis she will gradually slip away in the next few days as her nitrogen levels in her blood build up, taking away the oxygen the blood normally has. Sort of like getting drunk, but on nitrogen, rather than alcohol. She will feel europhoric, then just stop breathing. We hope so.

    She deserves that. She went back to college as a Penticostal preacher’s wife to get a teaching degree even when my dad did not approve. She taught me to cook and help care for my two brothers and one sister, and made sure we had all we needed everyday. She taught piano lessions to pay for her education, then turned around and used her salary as a 4th Grade teacher to make sure we all got a college education.

    I held her hand today as her baby sister did a Facetime. Her sister is a good 14 years younger than her. Happened a lot to Church of God preacher’s famililies in Washington County, Alabama 70 years ago. My Aunt Carol thanked my mom for being her “little momma” who raised her as their parents spent their time trying to start a local church. As she said, “I called you little momma because you taught me my letters and my prayers because our parents were so busy. I will alway be grateful. I love you.” My mom cannnot speak, but for the first time today, she tried to smile, and tried to move her hand to touch the Facetime phone.

    Mother’s Day has many meanings. But they all eventually are about strong women who sacriface their own needs for the the future benefit of the children around them, whether they birthed them or not.

    Thanks for your piece, and thanks for all you write to inspire us all.

    Reply
    • Sandi in FL. - May 14, 2018 8:33 am

      God bless your parents, Steve, especially your mother as she is very ill near the end of her long life. Peace, strength, hope and comfort to you and your father in the days ahead.

      Reply
    • Debbie Anderson - July 14, 2018 2:53 am

      What a beautiful tribute to your mother! I pray you God’s Peace in this transition time.

      Reply
  13. marsha leivo - May 14, 2018 1:19 pm

    As I walk by may women in the grocery store who look tired, or older, or lonely……I always try to give a smile, or comment on their nice sweater, or how nice their hair looks – I often get a thankful smile back. One never knows what another person is feeling or going through till they have walked in their shoes. I often wonder if I have helped in even the tiniest way. I would have wanted that for my mother.

    Reply
  14. Polly - July 13, 2018 11:35 pm

    Thank you for reminding us about the real people that we walk past everyday. Oh, we know that they are there; we know about their struggles; and we know about the little joys in their lives. We know so many of them but as we walk by, we forget. You always bring us back to what makes the world go round.

    Reply
  15. Louise Hawley - July 16, 2018 3:48 pm

    Beautiful … and there are legions of women like that. Sometimes i do not read”Sean” when he first pops up on my computer because i know I’ll cry. This was one of those times. Everyone of his messages could come from a pulpit.

    Reply

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