I notice her there outside the supermarket as I’m getting out of my car. I’ve ducked out for one thing, organic maple syrup for our waffles in the morning of all of the damn ridiculous white middle class things to be buying at 8pm on a Thursday night.
She is probably no older than me but she looks tired and she has three kids in tow. Similar ages to mine, but the youngest is not as old as Harper. They have a pram that is heavily laden down.
She stops me “excuse me? Have you got the time?”
I tell her it’s 8pm.
“Oh” she looks down “thanks”
I ask her if she is OK and her lip gets all quivery.
“Well, it’s just, I thought I’d be picked up by now”
I’m out by myself so I offer to give them a ride home. I’ve got the carseats after all and she lives only a few minutes away.
She very gratefully accepts, explaining that she would normally walk but the kids are very tired after a long day and it’s very dark.
We put all of her gear in the wagon and we set off. She asks if we can go through the drive thru on the way because the smallest hasn’t had dinner yet. No problem.
She then starts to talk to me. She tells me they’ve been at court all day because she hasn’t had access to her older kids because she had them so young. Her boy tells me from the backseat how excited he was to see his brother today. She tells me that she has been trying to get her license but she has so many bills and the Dad of these 3 took off and doesn’t help financially. She tells me that she seems to attract only assholes and hopes one day she can get married to a nice man who treats her and the kids well and who will help her. She tells me she hopes to see more of her big kids as she is a good Mum now. Indeed the 3 kids who are with her are all lovely and clearly looked after and loved.
She asks me if I’m “churchy” and I tell her no, but I know what it’s like not to have a car.
I drop her off. The cheap part of town. We unload the car and she thanks me profusely.
I’m not writing this so people think I did anything special. I’d like to think that anyone who could, would make sure a Mother and her kids got home OK? Right? I really hope so.
But I cannot stop thinking about her. I got home and hugged my husband and cried and felt grateful that I have him and we have our life. Even when we were dirt poor we still had each other. When the bank took our first house because we couldn’t make the repayments and we were eating a lot of lentils we still had the love and support of our family and friends as well each other. Sliding doors and all that.
I hope she finds her man. I hope she gets her license. I hope she gets more access to her bigger kids. I hope she can pay her bills.
But mostly I hope she isn’t alone