Friday, February 3, 2012

Little mama.

(the Atlanta skyline at sunrise)
I like the sunrise 'cause it brings a new day
I like a new day it brings new hope they say
I like the sunrise blazing in the new sky
Nighttime is weary 
and oh so am I

Every evening I wish upon a star
That my brand new bright tomorrow isn't very far
When that heavy blue curtain of night
Is raised up high way out of sight

I like the sunrise so heavenly to see

I like the sunrise and I hope it likes poor me

Here comes the sunrise...

~ Duke Ellington 


She almost ran me over.  Right outside the Grady entrance by Jesse Hill Jr. Drive.

"Sorry, 'scuse me!" she said without even looking my direction. Instead she flipped her shoulder upward to secure the pink padded diaper bag she was holding. Her youthful face was troubled and full of urgency and determination. Too much urgency and trouble in it to be so young if you asked me. But unusually determined, yes. The next words were for the preschooler who, instead of keeping up with her, was studying  me.

"Come on, here!"

I playfully raised my eyebrows and wiggled my fingers at the child who, instead of giggling or smiling, recoiled toward her mother. Still, as they passed me by she craned her neck keeping those eyes fixated on me in my long white coat.

Oh yeah, that. I started to announce that I didn't have any shots, but there was no time for all of that. They were clearly on a mission. Headed somewhere fast. Our little exchange didn't even register with mom. She reached out her hand and quickly pulled her in close.

And that was the end of that.

In the other hand was the tiny palm of her other child. Two years old? If that. Gait still wide-based and staggering. Kind of like Fred Sanford on Sanford and Son but cuter and more innocent. His cherubic face had perfectly symmetric features; this was made even more noticeable by the fuzzy trim of his coat hood tightly covering his head. Every few steps he seemed to drag a bit. Feet lifting off of the ground because there was no way he could keep up with her footing with only six to nine months of full-fledged walking under his belt.

Something about the urgency that he was being subjected to at such a young age gave me a pang in my heart. And even though I wanted to help out, for some reason I was like some sort of voyeuristic statue. . .thinking and watching but not moving.

Those little feet bobbed up and down on the sidewalk. Pick him up, I wanted to say. Can I help you out? But my mouth was as cemented as my body.

And then, like some kind of gun was shot in the air at a Triple Crown race, something changed. Things got even more urgent and her fast-paced strut erupted into a run. Or better yet, some kind of discombobulated jog. That overfilled diaper bag now pulled across the length of her torso. Strap lost between ample breasts appearing more so by the ill-fitting brassiere she wore.

"Ma-ma! Ma-ma! Oooooowww!"

That almost two year old maybe was two after all because he had words of protest when her hand grip clamped down like a vice. Cheeks turning red and mouth open and panting, she pulled him right along. At this point his toes now did nothing but graze the concrete.

"Owwwww. . . .hoo. . hooooooo."  

Next that pre-kindergartner melted into a pool of tired whimpering. Complete with the little kid noodle legs.


But wherever she had to go, it was important. Too important to fight against synchronous crying fits or gelatinous legs. She dug in deeper, strengthened her resolve and gritted her teeth. Next her head swung from side to side because she was talking to both of those kids this time.  Out came a throaty growl meaning business and nothing less.


Tired toddlers and pre-schoolers don't get this language, though, so it fell on deaf ears. More crying. More whimpering. More noodle legs.

And statue-me still just kept standing there frozen. Watching now from behind; bag now swung all the way around to her back and two small children floating behind her running legs like two human kites.

Where are you going?

Then, from the corner of my eye I saw it as she ran diagonally across the street with kids in tow: The MARTA bus. Just as she came gasping onto the curb it blasted her and her human appendages with tailpipe exhaust. And it pulled away from the bus stop.


Like clockwork, she slowed herself down. The first few steps appeared defeated and tired, but not even three steps later they quickly returned to some sort of normal.

Kind of like she was used to losing.

She finally picked the talking two-ish year old up and planted him on her hip. Next she used two saliva-covered fingers to tidy up the hip-baby's face and then, with a second finger lick, the preschooler's. And I kept on watching as that previously uncooperative pre-k kid perched her face skyward and let her. Wincing but still. . . . this time cooperating and allowing her mother to do what was necessary. What was most striking, however, was that she was not reacting the least bit to the fact that instead of winning the bus-catching race they'd just received a big, gray plume of smoke as the booby prize. No tears, no nothing.

Kind of like she was used to losing, too.

And then somebody yelled out. "Hey! Hey little mama!"

A dude with his head out of the window of that bus. Stopped right in between the intersection and waiting. On them.

I stood and secretly cheered inside of my heart as they hustled over toward that bus that they obviously needed to make. My frozen body began melting and my feet shoved off toward wherever I had initially meant to go. But not before casting one more glance.

And thank goodness I did. . .for in that moment I caught it--a glimpse of the side of her young face and the spit-shined faces of her babies, too. Smiling, finally. All three of them.

As that bus disappeared down the block with them in it, I wanted to run behind it to yell through the window just like that dude had a few moments before.

"Hey! Hey little mama! Sometimes you win, okay?"

Yeah. Sometimes you win.

Happy Friday.

Now playing on my mental iPod. . . . Amel Larrieux singing a beautiful, haunting (and non-embeddable) version of Duke Ellington's "I Like the Sunrise." It makes me cry. This is one that I'd recommend you take a moment to hear--really. Then tell me you've heard something lovelier today so I can tell you you're lying.

. . .oh, and also. . . . the lovely Ms. Larrieux singing with Sade's band Sweetback on "Baby, You Will Rise" (with lyrics equally apropros.)


  1. The problem is that she loses way too often. Even if she always pays the rent on time, she has the landlord down her back because her kids make noise. She has the day care down her back because she couldn't find a way to send the field trip money in once again so her kids had to sit this one out. She has her boss down her back because her kids had an infection and she had to miss a few more days of work. She has her family down her back because she just doesn't have it together and "You have to do better for those kids" I know because I've lived it. I'd never put anyone under that kind of stress. Thank you for standing in her corner and rooting for her.

  2. Hi Dr Manning - Is it okay if I comment on your blog anonymously if I do it properly and don't sign my name? Your writing is lovely. Your lack of judgment about this mama is lovely as well. Is there anything that you don't do well? If I saw you in person I'd be mighty impressed as well. Signed, Anonymous.

  3. Wow! This is a thought provoking post, and emmy's comments make it even more powerful. I hope that young mother, at least, has a soft place to fall from time to time.

  4. I teared up reading this, I was so happy for her. I know how something like that can make your day. Thanks for telling this story. It's funny you never know who's watching, empathizing, and rooting for you.

  5. Emmy -- Poignant and thought-provoking words as always. Thank you for reading and living to tell. You indeed have a testimony.

    Anon -- The beauty is that on this here blog, there aren't any rules. I am honored to know that you read and deeply touched that you'd even be compelled to comment. So. . .should the spirit move you, comment whichever way you see fit. Some of my favorite commenters are always anonymous. . . but something in their words makes me know it's the same soul sometimes. And sometimes not.

    Mom -- We all need a soft place to land, don't we? And to win sometimes.

    Stace -- Yep. That "hey little mama" is all too often some filthy dude flirting. . .but not this time. Sometimes you need those little wins don't you?


"Tell me something good. . . tell me that you like it, yeah." ~ Chaka Khan

Related Posts with Thumbnails