Dear Woman in Starbucks,
I’ll own the fact that I was in a judgmental place a few days ago when I saw you and your family at Starbucks. Your story is, no doubt, complicated and full of gray. I can never know what your lives are like, what you’ve suffered and how you’ve struggled.
All I saw was a snapshot. Your mom arrived with her friend to get a coffee and they chatted and laughed like happy 70-year-old friends. When you and the kids arrived, your mom brightened up as soon as she saw the grandkids. But when her friend said goodbye and left, things changed dramatically.
You sat down, turned your body away from the others at the table, crossed your arms over your chest and swung your leg. You were aggressively not part of the group. You turned around decisively at one point and said, “It’s time to go.”
Your mother said, “Can you give me one minute, I need to visit the restroom.”
You said, “No. I can’t.” And seemingly meant it.
Your kids objected and your mom asked you to hold her purse while she headed out to the bathroom. You immediately passed it off to your son to hold and you sighed and rolled your eyes. From the tip of your impeccably groomed head of hair to your slim, well pedicured feet, you radiated contempt.
I came very close to walking up to you and saying, “Stop it. Think about what you’re doing.”
I wanted to tell you that I lost my mom 25 years ago and that it just hurts when I see people treat their mothers this way.
My mom and I had a troubled relationship. It was a struggle, a slog. I got my part wrong plenty of times. Many of my last words were angry and frustrated. I do not hold my own behavior up as an exemplar.
But I know if I could have her back for a day and could meet her at Starbucks where she’s having coffee with a friend, and if I could bring along my daughter, I know it would be a moment I’d remember forever. I’d treasure the smile on her face, while she shared a story with her friend. I’d relish the way her eyes lit up when she saw my girl and the way she would have hugged her and said, “You’re beautiful.”
For all the struggle and all the gray in life, there are also the moments we should take advantage of. We should take the time to notice our mothers and to give them better than contempt.
If nothing else, woman in Starbucks, she loves your kids and they seemed pretty excited to see her. That is in itself worth something better than contempt.
Maybe it was a hard day and a hard week. I have know idea the dance the two of you are doing. I have no idea the pain and disappointment you feel toward each other.
All I really know is that I wish I had the chance to see my mom at Starbucks with my daughter. Sometimes I think I’d give up several weeks or months of my life to have this experience. But you took that same experience and, basically, spat on it. And that broke my heart.
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