I went to the dollar store this past Saturday and since I was there as the doors were unlocked, it was only me and another woman who were shopping.
She immediately caught my attention, mostly because she was talking so loudly. Maybe it was the lack of other people in the store that made her voice carry but I think it was mostly because she was shouting.
She had two children with her, a little girl about 2 or 3 years old and a baby that looked to be only weeks old.
"Come on, Juju. Follow Mommy Juju. You want to push the cart Juju?"
It made me smile. Here was a loving, attentive mother fully fixated on her children. But then it continued.
"You want to look at hair stuff, Juju? Mommy's going to buy you something for your hear Juju cause Mommy loves you, Juju."
Was this woman afraid the kid would forget her name?
"Be careful with the baby, Juju. You are such a good girl, Juju. Do you know how much your Mommy loves you, Juju? Do you love your Mommy, Juju? Do you miss your Mommy when she's not around Juju."
When I heard this mother I thought, "hmm, most mothers wouldn't talk like
that. I never talk like that." But then I dismissed it because maybe
she's a better mom than me. I am lacking in the "patience while
shopping" department of motherhood. This woman could be my role model!
I was with her all the way to "Do you miss your Mommy when she's not around." That last part struck me as odd. This is something that I've never once asked my kids while in the store. Most of the time I'm all, "STOP TOUCHING EVERYTHING!" Or, "STOP TOUCHING EACH OTHER." Or the much less often used yet slightly disturbing, "STOP TOUCHING PEOPLE!"
There was something un-natural about her manner of speaking, her repetition of words, her desperation. And then I remembered it.
When I was in college I worked as a social worker. I transported children to and from supervised parental visitations and I'd heard this conversation before. They are the words a mother uses when she is trying to stuff a week worth of mothering into a two hour time frame. It's super focused, loud, frantic and urgent.
"What do you want to do after the store, Juju? Do you know how much I love you Juju? You are so beautiful, Juju. I think of you all the time, Juju."
The words cut through me and my eyes started to water. There are over 400,000 children in foster care in the U.S. Juju was probably one of them. This mother was probably visiting with her children on the day before Mother's Day which meant that on that holiday, they wouldn't be with her. Maybe it was because I was missing my own mom this Mother's Day, who knows but this whole scenario made my heart ache.
On Mother's Day I couldn't help but think of Juju and pray for her because she and I were not so different on that day. Both of us were missing our moms and remembering the last time we saw them like it was yesterday.