At the end of a cycle in the middle of the day
When the care instructions can't help but somebody else can
All mothers are gifted with concealed claws and fangs upon entry into the profession. Accessories for an instinct hardwired into the job description so that with the force akin to a Mama Bear or Tiger, we can decisively rip any perceived threat to shreds that gets too close to the cubs.
Adorably cuddly and vulnerable but as with all species, they get bigger and find every way imaginable to drive said mothers up the blinking wall after ripping out their last oft-mentioned nerve.
Exhausting a mama’s patience is a life-threatening endeavor.
I know I’ve had my moments. Incredibly grateful there weren’t portable recording devices present at the time.
It’s during those unavoidable repetitive chores; the cooking and cleaning plus keeping your child smelling like a human being and safe from self-destructive curiosity that it gets to you.
My mother divulged how my young brother once drank washing detergent when her back was turned for a minute.
And let’s not forget the never-ending laundry and trips to the laundromat for those of us without these appliances at home. I don’t think people spend a lot of time dwelling on such places, but they can serve as a pivotal backdrop as any to life unfurling its many tendrils which in this instance was a small 'launderette' smack by the roadside of a minuscule town around the corner from my son’s school.
Inside routine mundane tasks, people have time on their hands____or don’t but sort the clothes anyway.
I had just inserted my coins into the medium-sized washer, but the thirty-something-shoulder-length-haired brunette of a boy and girl there on my arrival near lunchtime looked like every other mother ensuring the work, school, and play clothes were clean.
Mamas the world over want the miniature expressions of themselves to represent in clean clothes. There are silent, judgmental murmurings in our heads about the ones that aren’t.
This thirty-something brunette was asking a possibly 7-year-old impish tousle of arms and legs splayed over the three-seater bench to “Please sit up!” She repeated this request. There was thinly veiled pleading in her voice as she removed clothes from the tumble dryer into the metal wheeled laundry baskets permanently stationed there for customer use.
I have known people who can ignore another person so completely and convincingly that you’d honestly think somebody had a hearing impediment. The possibly-7-yr-old may have been born with natural acting prowess.
The sprite then stood at her own metered pace and walked past her brother out of the laundromat door and into the town amidst cries of “Where are you going?” followed by “Don’t go out there!" and “Come back here!” interspersed with her name more than once.
It never occurred to me as a child that life existed on the other side of ignoring my mom, so I never tried it.
When this happened, Brunette Mom was midstream of folding a colored item of child’s clothing as the atmosphere around her seemed to open up space for whatever volatile reaction would erupt.
I don’t remember exactly what I was doing when her shoulders began to shake but her torso convulsed into short but throaty deep sobs as she stood aside from the laundry basket; unintentionally losing it for an audience of one.
We, the mothers of the earth, have the fearlessness rivaling a mighty lioness in spades, but our Achilles heel is that we all have breaking points which our charges can be especially adept at finding.
There was no hesitation as I easily closed the distance to put my arms around her, not knowing or caring whether the tension had been building for the morning, the week, or months.
A mother breaking down between cycles in a laundromat, still part of a dedicated, lifelong club.
A mom crying is a mom crying. Of course, I hugged her! And hugged her some more.
The membership has all been there, whether the result of a massive blowout or a hundred sniper battles in kid zone heated sibling squabbles. Not to mention homework hell, and dreaded midnight feverish stomach bugs complete with projectile vomiting.
Those internal attacks deliver devastating blows so shaking us into a stupor that claws can stay retracted and fangs sheathed.
“Now, now,” I said gently lifting her back to look at her square on, “We all go through this as mothers and we all get through this as mothers.”
I mumbled a few more words of what I hoped were comfort and as her eyes stayed a blurry red, I asked about her son’s name. When she answered, I called him over and told him his mom needed a hug, and this sweet-smiling-had-to-be-8-yr-old did just what Tag Team Mama told him then went back to his comic book.
Every mom by law should have a tag team.
That one person shouting from the side-lines for you to get up or get out because they know you’re in deep trouble.
Countless wrestling scenarios are emblazoned in my memory that found a competitor pinned or severely injured; continuously subjected to repeated blows. His teammate yelling encouragement and stretching out a hand as far as possible; so ready to jump in and help while the referee circled the ring assessing whether someone was trying to tap out or in danger of losing consciousness. If only that someone could get close enough to reach the teammate behind the ropes, they could earn respite; leaving the fight temporarily to catch a second wind.
As the mom in the launderette regained her composure, I questioned whether her daughter was alright. She felt certain that she had probably gone to a friend’s house nearby to play and genuinely didn’t seem worried. As I helped her fold the basket of clothes during our conversation, I was grateful for the sacred mama ground necessary for at least borderline resolution.
I never asked her name.
I never told her mine.
There was a connection forged that didn’t require pleasantries.
I called 'junior' over from the corner to help with the clothes-folding task.
“He’ll only drop them on the floor” she quipped.
But sweet-smiling-had-to-be-8-yr-old-boy fell right into place with adept hands that held up the bedsheets and his mother’s spirit until all the cycles were done.
In a small town such as it was, this mom and I later crossed paths again a few times; meeting near the bus stop for a ride to the station or passing by on the street where she looked relaxed and at ease. The last memory I have is of watching her teach my son how to make daisy chains with her children while sitting on the grass in the distance. At 14 yrs. old my son still makes them.
A glimmer of recognition and a hint of a smile here and there. We kept a seamless connection that had no use for words. Mostly because mamas the world over don't need long-winded explanations or instructions to simply understand and genuinely care.
About the Creator
The Dani Writer
My earliest memory is of being in ocean. Born and raised in Bermuda, I lived a childhood made of pastel joys. I've learned to make a delicious vegetarian lasagne, train as a registered nurse, and keep the juiciest of secrets. @thedaniwriter
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
Compelling and original writing
Creative use of language & vocab
Niche topic & fresh perspectives
Heartfelt and relatable
The story invoked strong personal emotions
This is wonderful. Love it.
Absolutely adore this! 💘