Sunday, August 13, 2006


I am back from another trip to Massachusetts. On the way back I was getting drowsy, so I pulled off into a roadside rest area, parked the car at the far end of the lot and took a nap. When I woke, directly across from my line of vision was a young woman in an inexpensive, tired-looking small car, with her young daughter. The mother could not have been more than 19 or 20, and her daughter was about 2.

The young mother was changing her daughter's diaper in the back seat of the car, and then changing her daughter's clothes. They both look to have been traveling for a bit, although each was clean and tidy. The little girl was a pale redhead with skin like ivory, and a slow and gentle smile. The two of them seemed to have this routine comfortably established between them.

The young mother was wearing plain black slacks, a modest striped top and black sandals with rhinestone trim. She sat at the edge of the backseat, her feet on the asphalt, her toes pointed inwards like a little girl. She held her daughter on her lap and smoothed her hair.

The diaper had been changed. The outfit had been changed. Now it was just mother and daughter time, with the mother crooning softly to her baby girl, smoothing her hair, kissing her forehead. The mother wore no wedding ring.

I began to wonder about their story. Were they 2/3 of a family or were they the family? Where were they going on the big highway headed south? There seemed to be a drama about them, a sense of unfilled-in blanks.

I liked this mother. She was attentive to her daughter, but not overwhelmingly. She managed to communicate both affection and a certain efficiency. I imagined her as wiser than her years.

Girls these days do not have babies at her age without also having a story to tell. And the story is rarely a happy one.

I wondered at their story. I wondered as the young child got strapped into the child safety seat. I wondered as the mother closed the back door, got in the driver's seat, closed her door, started the engine and drove off.

After I, too, left, the cars around me seemed different. They were no longer just tin boxes hurtling down the highway. They were like covers of books, each containing its own story and its own actors within it - its own pains and triumphs, loves and disappointments. We were lives all rolling at high speed, largely oblivious to eachother.

I said a prayer for the Madonna of the Rest Stop and her baby girl, and pointed my car toward home.


Blogger Ginger said...

Wonderful post. There's something about traveling that brings clarity and new perspective, isn't there? Thanks for painting a compelling picture.

12:12 AM  
Blogger The Harbour of Ourselves said...

you write beautifully, you see things with more than your eyes, you notice small graces and in those precious moments grace dances and for a moment we can hear heaven sing....


2:37 AM  
Blogger samtzmom said...

We do tend to get so caught up in our journeys that we fail to see the stories in those around us. Glad you are home safe and sound. Lovely story.

6:29 AM  
Blogger Rainbow dreams said...

In moments like that other peoples stories and lives touch our own - a lovely story, thanks for sharing it

4:30 PM  

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