I like to think of myself as a seasoned mom. But even a seasoned mom sometimes meets her match. It’s in our most trying motherly moments, I have found, that God graces us with the gift of humility — by opening our eyes to our helpless dependence upon others.
One warm spring Saturday morning a few years ago, I imagined that taking six kids along to the florist to pick up First Communion flowers and then delivering these to the church would be a simple errand to run.
But that was my imagination.
My reality was that, not ten minutes into our family road trip, I heard a small voice call from the back of my loaded van.
“The baby!” someone shrieked. “She’s throwing up!”
Was she ever. Eleven-month-old Gabrielle gagged, spat, and kicked in her car seat as the older children recoiled in horror. Hurriedly, I pulled over to the side of the road, leaped over the front seat, and made it to Gabby’s side just in time to catch her final heaving — in my hands.
This is what we mothers do. We catch our babies’ vomit in our bare hands, as if the very act of doing so will bring them some measure of comfort in their time of need. Truly it does not, and yet we do it nonetheless.
I grabbed a nearby sweatshirt to wipe my hands, the car seat, and my now screeching baby’s face and lap. Then, abandoning all hope of a trip to the florist, I rushed back to the driver’s seat, intent upon hurrying my sick baby home.
But this too was my imagination.
Here in New Hampshire, in addition to the usual four, we have a little known fifth season — Mud Season. And I had parked in it. When I pressed the gas pedal, my tires only whirred and then sank.
I was stuck. With six kids, in a giant van, on a busy road, with no phone to call for help, I was stuck.
I handled this crisis as any grown woman should: I lay my head down upon the steering wheel and I cried.
But only a moment passed before I heard a tap on my window.
“Ma’am?” A man holding a cane interrupted my sob-fest. “Do you need help?”
Glancing in the mirror, I saw a black pickup truck parked behind me. I rolled down the window and spilled out something that might have sounded a bit like this:
“I was driving (sob-sob) to pick up flowers (sniffle) and my baby threw up all over (gasp) and the van got stuck in the mud (whine-whimper-sob-sob) and what am I supposed to do noooooow?”
“First things first,” my new best friend replied calmly. “Are you and the kids okay?”
I nodded. And maybe sniffled just a bit. He placed a hand on my shoulder, gave me a confident nod, and then, cane in hand, he hobbled toward the road to flag down a tow truck, of course. One that just happened to be passing by at that particular moment on that particular Saturday morning.
“Jake!” he shouted (of course he knew the tow truck driver). “Can you help us out?”
Jake said that he could indeed help us out. He pulled over in front of my van, hopped from his truck, glanced only briefly in my direction, and then set immediately to work.
I sat dumbfounded in the driver’s seat while he attached a winch to the front of my van and hopped back into his truck. In a matter of seconds, my van was extracted from the mud and its grateful tires kissed the pavement.
Jake removed the winch from my van, gave me a quick nod, hopped back into his magic tow truck and sped away.
My cane wielding new best friend didn’t stick around for thanks and accolades either. He waved away my thanks with one hand as he gave my arm a pat with the other.
“You’re all set,” he told me, and I watched him hobble away in the rear-view mirror.
Not all of God’s special helpers are angels with wings, I told my kids as we raced toward home. Some of them limp with canes. Some of them wear their hair long and have more than their fair share of tattoos. Some of them wear jumpsuits with names embroidered over the left breast pocket. Some of them drive magic tow trucks and look quite different from most of the people whom we call friends.
But they are friends, and they are angels in their own right. And God bless them for that.