A Mom and Her Kids
My memory is from about 1976, sitting at the counter of a St. Louis Dunkin' Donut shop. My brother and I, both teens at the time, were treating our mom to a donut stop. It was Mom's birthday and David and I were finding clever ways to celebrate without spending too much money. At home we had performed a silly Baroque version of Happy Birthday and presented her with a handful of oddball gifts. And then we headed off on a day of whimsical exploration, which was Mom's favorite kind of celebration.
As we sat chatting over coffee, I became a little distracted by a mother and 2 kids at the other end of the counter. They seemed familiar. The brother and sister were swiveling back and forth on the bar stools, joking. The mother seemed genuinely amused by her kids and joined in with a few of her own jokes. At a glance this happy little trio reminded me of younger version of us. But closer observation made it clear they were very different.
A Sad Story
The mother wore a shabby coat over rumpled clothes. The children's clothes were faded and well worn. When the mother turned on her stool I could see she had bruises around her eyes and mouth. I wondered.
A truck driver entered and sat at the counter. He asked the woman what happened to her. I quietly sipped my coffee, straining to hear her reply. She was very matter of fact as she described how she had been beaten and held 9 hours by a man outside a hamburger joint. The mom seemed disconnected from the story she was telling until she neared the end. Then her face suddenly matched her words. "When he stopped beating me, I was in shock. I didn't really know I was hurt, until I felt the blood..."
There was hardly a pause before one of the kids jumped in, bringing the conversation back to humor. "Hey Mom! Look at you now. Your bruises are starting to match the color of your coat!" And they all laughed awkwardly.
Thank you, Dear Mom in the Donut Shop.
Your story jolted me. It was hard to believe I was sitting near a mother, who had recently been assaulted. As I sat at the end of the counter with my mother and brother, I was reminded of some difficulties we had dealt with during the year and how we had often coped with humor. You and my mother may have been worlds apart, but I'm pretty sure you had a few things in common. Resilience, good humor and somewhat protective kids.
To celebrate my birthday in April 2012, I decided to reflect on the past with a different kind of list. I've met a lot of people in my 55 years, but I'm going to stop and remind myself about the strangers I've met. These are people I met by accident, not through friends or work. For some reason, these strangers dropped into my life. Even though we may have only spent a few minutes together, these people have never been forgotten.
Each week, I'll spotlight someone I met in the past, who in some small way, made me stop and think.
Remember 55 Strangers