Sunday snapshot

May 10,2010
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath( )

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

We had brunch Sunday about forty minutes from where we live, at a wonderful co-op market with open-air seating out on a lively little green, in a funky, atmosphere-filled little town that years ago I ached and ached to live in. Now, though, I was okay with the fact that we didn't in fact live there, and I didn't feel envious of all those funky families who get to live a mere stone's throw away from all that open-air hipness and the co-op with the wide array of vegetarian food and the live music every weekend. I wondered what had changed, what had caused that restless ache I used to feel when we first moved into the area to subside. I've gotten older, I thought to myself, and I didn't even feel a twinge about that either--just a content, practical, satisfied sense that life just as we had it, where we lived it, and what we did with it, was good. After we had finished our brunch, and were waiting for L. to climb down from a massive oak tree he found, I took T. to a corner of the green where there were piles of hula hoops lying around for kids--and kids-at-heart--to use. I watched T. swivel her little body around and around while she tried so desperately to get the hoop to stay moving. Her attempts were so frantic and endearing that several people stopped to smile at her, and cheer her on. T. is like that--she can amass a little crowd of admirers wherever we go. A short, older black woman came up to us. She was dressed in a long colorful skirt, a black top, and had several strands of glittering stones around her neck. She stopped to smile at T., and clapped the loudest when she managed to keep the hoop twirling a few seconds longer than normal. "Happy Mother's Day!" she told me, patting my arm. I turned, about to say the same to her, but then I stopped. Was she a mother? Why should I presume she was? Instead, I smiled. "Thank you!" I felt strange telling her Happy Mother's Day when I didn't know if she was a mom or not, and didn't know the story behind her life. "You can wish me Happy Mother's Day," she said, smiling even more widely. Then she leaned closer, as if she were about to impart some piece of deep wisdom to just me. "You know what?" she said. "We women are ALL mothers," she said. "ALL women are mothers." And so I wished her Happy Mother's Day and watched her walk away, her skirt flipping back and forth around her feet. There's a woman I'd love to spend an afternoon with, I thought. Just imagine what I'd learn... Hoops