11.24.2010

the day a stranger made me cry

Last week I was running around getting ready for my trip to Milwaukee. I was stocking the fridge with food for Logan, making sure he had plenty to eat while his personal chef was away. He didn’t request much except blutwurst and rye bread.

After running errands all day, including trying to find a comfortable dress I could nurse in that was appropriate to wear to a full Catholic funeral mass, I was ready to go home. As I was driving through town I came up to the street that the German market is on, and remembered that Logan had made no specific request, except for his beloved blood sausage. I crawled up toward the light, debating whether to go make one more stop, get the Pie out of the car again and delay my arrival home, or to just go home and tell Logan I forgot to get the sausage, or just couldn’t handle one more errand. He wouldn’t be upset, I knew, but something made me go anyway.

So we arrived at the German market just before it closed, and I got Pie out of the car one last time. We went in, and as the bakery was closing some older German women came out, still talking, gossiping and sipping their coffees, as they had probably been doing for hours. I was a little irritated that they took up the entire hallway as they slowly made their way through the corridor to the doors. One of them stopped me to look at the Pie, and admire her pumpkin had that my friend Christina knitted. I silently sighed, knowing that this could be a while. There’s nothing German women like better than seeing a baby after spending their afternoon drinking coffee, eating pfeffernusse and gossiping. But the women were sweet, and after drooling over the Pie for a moment started talking with me in German – which I can still mostly understand, even though I’ve lost much of my ability to speak. We spoke for a moment about my time living in Germany & Austria, and where they were from. I was a little antsy to just get into the market, buy my things and go home. The women bent down again to see the Pie, and then wished me well and left. As the last woman was passing me, she leaned in and said “danke für sein eine gute Mutter”.

It took my breath away. How often does someone, a stranger especially, thank you for being a good mother? How did she know what kind of mother I was? What made her thank me for caring for my child, someone who she’ll probably never see again and who has no impact on her life? How did she know I needed to hear that?

I went into the market, ordered my blutwurst and caraway rye from the deli and bakery counters, grabbed a bag of cookies and a Ritter Sport, paid and got Pie back in the car. I drove home in the dark, thinking about how I still had to unload the groceries, start dinner, wash the dress I had just bought, pack for myself and the Pie, clean the house a little and make sure Logan was ready for a weekend alone. But while I was thinking about all that, I kept replaying my encounter in the hallway of the market. I didn’t want to stand there and talk to those women, I just wanted to get on with it and get home. But I decided to indulge them and let them pinch the Pie’s cheeks and ooh and aah as she yawned and nestled her face into my neck. They got to spend a moment with a cute baby, but I walked away feeling connected to people who I had been eager to dismiss. It’s not always easy for me to be a good mom, particularly when there is no clocking out, there are no breaks or vacations or time off for good behavior. It’s exhausting, overwhelming, lonely and often thankless.

That woman had probably raised children and has probably seen her children raising their children. We were connected in motherhood, even though we’d never met and likely never will see each other again. She said exactly what I needed to hear at that moment. I made my way through the 5 stop lights and the winding neighborhood to my house, feeling emotionally full and re-charged, teary and thankful for the encounter.

I’m glad I spoke with them, allowed them a moment to enjoy my Pie, and opened myself up to hear that quick “danke” that put me back on a positive, thankful mental road. I am doing my best, and it is good enough.

2 comments:

  1. that's beautiful. (and those germans, they can be odd birds)

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  2. this was especially nice because a few weeks before this I had been berated by an older woman while i nursed in the back seat of my car in a Trader Joe's parking lot!

    i lived in germany when i was a baby and have been back a few times. i love those kooky older german women. they really did make my day.

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