Dear Mom at the Thruway Stop...
New York State Thruway 90 West
Dear Mom on the NY thruway stop on the 90 west, April 2015...
I saw you coming out of the family bathroom with a small babe tucked to your chest in her baby bjorn, pink socks already sliding off her tiny feet, chasing your son who was probably around the age of two. The very full diaper bag was bouncing off the side of your right hip until gravity won and its' contents spilled forth from the unzipped top.
I heard you curse under your breath as you shoved the baby things and toddler snacks back into the depths of the bag, all while keeping an eagles eye on the toddler boy who was weaving in and out of the line formed at the McDonald's counter.
I saw the look of exasperation in your face when the woman at the register informed you that they were out of chocolate milk for your little ones kids meal, and your son began his loudly audible protest at the suggestion of regular milk.
I witnessed the juggling act of two bags of food, two drinks, a tipsy diaper bag, a baby papoosed to your center, and the firm grip on a squirmy two year olds hand... The acrobatics of motherhood displayed with a look of strained determination in your every step.
I saw the concern, borderline terror in your eyes when your son escaped your fingers and started towards your minivan, tiny feet pounding the pavement of a busy parking lot. When you caught up with him I saw your anger in the quick, tight hold you took of his upper arm and the guilt that flashed across your face at not having a better hold of him to begin with. And then the guilt at being mad after you got him safely back in your grasp, when what you wanted to feel was relief.
I saw you search for your keys while balancing all the factors that made up that moment. I saw you strap your small, precious cargo safely into their carseats, giving your little boy his lunch and drink before sliding the door closed and getting yourself back behind the steering wheel.
When it seemed contentment had filled your car, I watched your eyes release a cascade of tears. The tears found in traveling alone with two small children. Tears of trying to do everything right without the realization that "right" is what works for you, and if it's done in love, it's probably right.
Tears of a long journey that I do not know the beginning or end of, but that in that instant, was overwhelming.
Tears that lasted less than a minute before you wiped them away with a scratchy, fast food napkin, smoothed your hair and your hands, and smiled at your children in your rear view mirror.
Dear Mom at the thruway stop, I want you to know that your courage, your acrobatics, your frustration, your Love, and your tears are not unnoticed.
I want you to know that I am a kindred spirit who also had to travel alone with my children when they were so small. I understand the dance of the diaper bag, a heavy, lazy partner. I get the dread associated with the thruway stop for food and gas, when toddler bodies want to run and wiggle after being trapped in the car for hours, and you need to nurse the baby while trying to subdue their older sibling. I know the myriad of emotions that can overcome you in a "simple" thirty minute rest from the road.
I have left my own tear stains on my Subaru Forester's steering wheel, only to see my girls in the rear view mirror and find a smile at play across my lips.
Dear Mom, I want you to know that you are doing a great job and that you are not alone in this thing called motherhood... And that I am impressed with the love and grace that I witnessed on the 90 thruway that day. Even if you didn't feel graceful, trust me, it was there.
Your every action and reaction was laced in your love as a Mom... and I hope your travels beyond my observation, were calm and safe.
Dear Mom at the thruway stop. I see you. I am you. You are enough.