Being a badass mom appears in many forms, and some of those aren’t the loudmouth, wine-swilling, in-your-face, swear-happy gals. Sometimes they’re moms who do brave things, out of character things, or even humiliating things…all for the sake of their kids.
It was cold and drizzling a rainy, sleety, snowy mess. On the way into Walmart after we had been snowed in for days, my kids and I drove past her puffy jacket, earmuffs, her leggings and suede boots inadequate for the nasty weather she stood in. She had forgone gloves, perhaps because she didn’t have any, or perhaps because she needed a tight grip on the sign she was holding: “Three Kids. Money please for food and diapers. Gracias. God bless.”
The truck in front of me dipped into a pothole, and I saw her jump back to avoid the icy splash it would spray on her legs. I slowed to avoid splashing her, but I didn’t have any cash to give her, didn’t stop.
My own three kids looked out the window at her. What is she doing, Mama? I answered, “She’s asking for money to help feed her kids. She has three children, just like I do.” Just like I do.
We filled our cart with groceries and diapers for the week. While I normally dread the endless loop around the store, finding items, checking coupons, corralling my kids, saying no to candy and cheap plastic toys, this trip around Walmart felt different for me. That mom, standing ankle-deep in snowy sludge, would love to be inside this store with her kids, filling her cart.
I imagined her, proudly pushing a cart full of her three children (three boys? three girls? a combination?), the dark ponytail down her back swishing behind her as she carefully chose items to take home.
I would do that for you. I had been thinking it over and over through the aisles, and only when my daughter questioned what I had mumbled, did I realize I’d said it aloud. I looked down at my children, my beautiful daughter and two sons, and I hugged them, kissed their cheeks and the tops of their heads that smelled of the kid shampoo we would use when we got home. We had just put another bottle of it in our cart.
I would stand in the snow for you. I would humble myself in front of strangers if it meant we could have food on the table. If it meant you could have a clean diaper and a better night’s rest, I would hold a sign in a cold Walmart parking lot and beg for money. I would stay there all day for you, for as long as it took to keep you safe.
In the checkout line, though I never receive change on purchases, I asked the cashier for it that day. I packed the groceries and kids into the car quickly and hurried to the place where the mother had been standing with her sign. She wasn’t there.
I looked around desperately, not wanting this to be the end, hoping to see her again. I caught a glimpse of the long dark ponytail, the puffy jacket packing her sign into the back of a beaten up old minivan. She seemed defeated, giving up after a hard day of hoping for the kindness of passersby. I skidded behind the van and hopped out.
She looked startled at the maniacal soccer mom who’d left the car running with her kids in it and was hurrying toward her.
I saw your sign earlier, I’d said. I pressed the money I’d received from the cashier into her hand, not much, but it was something. I have three kids, too. They’re right over there. We wanted to help.
To my surprise, tears formed in both our eyes. She hugged the sleeves of the puffy jacket around my neck, all the while saying Gracias, gracias. And then she was gone, rumbling down the street in her old minivan, while I drove toward home in a different direction, wishing I had done more, said something more to her.
Though I have no way to know, I have envisioned her arrival at home. She doesn’t tell her children where she’s been. She hugs them to her freezing body, asks them to sit in her lap to warm her up. When she can feel her limbs again, she goes to the kitchen to prepare a comforting meal. She tucks three dark heads into bed, thankful she’s kept the wolf at the door at bay, at least for tonight.
We put all kinds of badasses on pedestals: the pop stars, the actors and actresses, the professional athletes, the slick politicians. We follow them on social media, quote their eccentricities to our friends. But the real badasses? They’re moms. They’re superheroes. They’re willing to do anything because they love their children.