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It is a hot August afternoon when she takes her walk beneath the sun that bakes lawns and casts shadows through trees.  I watch her, my neighbor, everyday and wonder.

Does she wonder about me?

I would guess she was seventy years old the winter I was born; nearing one hundred this summer that baby James will come.  She carried babies herself once, I know this because she lives with her daughter.  Other children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren come to visit.

We are separated by years but the bond of motherhood is tight like a thick rubber band.  I imagine she sees my swollen belly and remembers the feeling with a memory that defies age and man’s reason.  I know this as I know that in seventy years I will remember the way his feet feel as they compress my diaphragm, making me short of breath as I watch her shuffling steps on the sidewalk.  Her hands grip tightly to her walker.  Mine grip tightly to my toddler boy as he pulls me in circles around the yard.  Tiny boy hands laced in mine, tiny baby feet inside me.  The motion must catch her eye, she turns her head toward us, against the sun, and I see the briefest nod.   A nod I imagine says, “oh yes.  I remember.  It was yesterday.”

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My wonder overflows into compassion when her eyes look lonely and turn back down to the sidewalk.   I take my toddler boy by the hand and we cross the street.  We say “hi” three, maybe four times before she hears and stops, smiles, eyes disappearing briefly into folds of soft wrinkles.

“Is it a boy or a girl?”  She asks.

I assume that she is asking about the baby, large like a beach ball stretched beneath my skin.  Then I realize, her eyes set on the head of my toddler boy, that she is asking about Wynn.

“He is a boy,”  I say.  “He is two.”

“A girl?” she yells back.

“No, he is a boy,” I say much louder and slower.  “He is two.”

She shakes her head, despairing, “I can’t see or hear much of anything anymore.”

I pat my belly and say, “this is also a boy, he is due in September.”

She smiles and nods.  I am itching to know so I offer, “I imagine you remember exactly what this feels like.”

She hears me perfectly well this time.  We are speaking a common language.

“Oh, oh yes, ” she says, the words drawn out, her head nodding.  “Yes.  That you do not forget.”

She proceeds to tell me that her first of three children, a girl, was born while her husband was stationed in Okinawa during World War II.  That the baby took two days of hard labor to come.  That she was nine months old before her husband first held her.  She mumbles something that I can’t quite make out about how the war changed them.

She thanks me so sincerely for crossing the street to say hello that I am ashamed I haven’t done so every day all summer.   I would have crossed the street if Jesus had been walking there.

Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’’ Matthew 25:40

I promise we will be back.

“What is your first name?” I ask her.

“Eunice,” she replies.  “Horrible, isn’t it?”

“No,” I fib and we both laugh.

Mother to mother, on this hot summer day.

18 Responses to The Mother Next Door

  1. Christie says:

    What a lovely encounter, Erin. Thank you for sharing.

  2. So beautiful. I loved every word.

  3. I love this, Erin! So beautifully written. :) How are you feeling, wow I can’t believe you’re little guy will be here next month already! I hope you enjoy the rest of the summer with Wynn and your hubby! :)

  4. Vada says:

    Love this! Once a mother, always a mother, and we don’t forget.

  5. Christina Garcia says:

    “The Mother Next Door” brought tears to my eyes. How lovely. I instinctively put my hand on my stomach as I was reading. I am 63 and my son is 25. No, one never forgets the amazing miracle of it all. However, it all goes by much too quickly. Enjoy it all while you can. God Bless ♥

  6. Susan says:

    Oh! What a wonderful gift you gave yourself in spending time with that wonderful older woman! Loved this post and would love to hear about more visits with your new friend.

  7. Ana Maria says:

    What a beautiful post, thank you.

  8. Julie says:

    Beautiful!

  9. Stephanie says:

    Oh E you made me get all weepy at work!

  10. amanda says:

    Oh sweet Erin, thanks for sharing this beautiful story. Just today I had a dear friend capture some photos of my 90 yr old grandma, Ruben and I. How sweet these seasoned souls are. We have much to learn from them, yet already so much in common.

    Isn’t our desire to connect with people a beautiful gift? To think, all we have for sure is this very moment. I’m sure you made her day :)

  11. Cindy Smith says:

    Erin, from the depth of your kind heart to your insightful perception of the entire situation this vignette is radiant with Christ-like love.What a deeply beautiful memory you have created and captured for always. Thanks for sharing.

  12. Marty Younts says:

    Beautiful memories from a beautiful heart.

  13. Rachel says:

    This made me well up with tears. Thank you for sharing. My aunt’s name is Eunice, a sweet woman who wasn’t able to have any children, and is now a widow. Thank you for sharing and reminding me to do just what you did, notice the unnoticed. You are right, we will be there soon.

  14. Linda says:

    First time here…tears…and remembering.

  15. julie says:

    So happy to have come across your blog again… somehow I lost touch with it. I just needed to tell you how wonderful your writing is… I experienced those chills once again while reading.

  16. Theresa P. says:

    Can I just say how much I enjoy reading your blog? Your words are so eloquent and often they leave me in tears. Thank you for your beautiful words and for looking at the world with so much thoughtfulness!

  17. Kristin says:

    Yes, a feeling you will never forget! The last month can be hard. Try to enjoy each movement :)

  18. Casey says:

    I read a lot of blogs, but yours is by far my favorite. I think I have had tears at almost every post, since I’ve started reading it. I too, am a mother of two boys and you are putting into words things that I have thought and felt. I love your passion for Christ, your family, and decorating. Thank you so much for your beautiful stories.

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