I was loading a child's school desk to take to a professional to be refinished when I heard it, a low anguished, "Moooooommmm..."
As any mother can attest, it doesn't matter how old your children are, when someone calls "Mom!" you automatically look. I looked.
It turned out that a girl was standing near the bushes at the end of our driveway talking on her cell, evidently to her mother.
"Are you okay?" I asked.
"Yes," she answered.
"I just heard the 'mom!' and wanted to make sure. It's the mom in me, I suppose.' I continued loading the desk and the little wooden chair.
"I was just walking to work and talking to my mom. She's not very helpful sometimes."
Curiously, I said, "Where do you work?" She told me. It was a couple miles down the road.
"That's a bit of a hike," I said. I told her that after I dropped off the desk and chair at the refinishers, I needed to get a few groceries for the week. "I can give you a ride up there if you don't mind the detour," I said.
She didn't have to be to work until 5:30. It was not yet 4. She agreed. So I got everything in the back seat and we headed off.
She was a talker. She was a mother herself, getting pregnant when she was 17. The baby lived with her ex and his new girlfriend, and the new girlfriend was teaching him to call her 'mama' and that bothered her something awful.
I remembered my ex-son-in-law doing that with William and his new flame. It was terribly hurtful and it was meant to be hurtful. I offered up the same advice I had given to my own daughter: This won't last. Be bigger than the hurt. Don't fall into the trap of arguing about it and showing him your hurt, because that's where his power comes from. You just focus on being the best mom you can be and let the crap fall to the side."
She said, "It's hard."
I said, "Sure. This is a hard time. But hard times pass."
She was quiet, and then changed the subject. She thanked me for the ride. "I don't have a driver's license," she said. "My mom never taught me."
I said, "That's the wonderful thing about being an adult. You have the power to change that."
She was quiet again. She didn't seem to know what to say. She expected sympathy, someone to say that her boyfriend was a shit, and that her mother had really been derelict in her role.
She talked about her son, who is two. He will turn 3 just as she turns 21. We got to our destination and walked through the parking lot together. She was very early for work but at least she wasn't walking in the rain.
When I headed out, later, I heard her on the phone with her mother. "I'm doing the best I can!" she snapped.
That girl's got a rough row to hoe. By extension, so does her mother. I wish them well.