Yesterday, I was shopping in our version of Walmart when I saw her.
The first thing I noticed was her short, purple hair.
Then the “circus tent” dress, her 350-pound bulk, and the painfully swollen feet that were somehow stuffed into brightly colored Crocs.
I thought to myself, “I bet Mom would have loved this lady.”
You see, my tiny little Mother had a heart filled to the brim with love.
She spent maybe 30 years in Al-Anon, and one of its greatest gifts was the concept of unconditional love.
Mom learned not to judge people; that it was better to love them and rejoice in whatever made them unique.
Especially if life had given them heavy crosses to carry, yet, despite it all, they’d chosen joy instead of despair.
Even though I’d only seen the big lady with purple hair for about 10 seconds, as she rested her weight atop a shopping cart, I knew she and Mom were two peas in a pod.
They were women who loved.
A bit later, I was waiting outside the busy store.
I saw a young couple with a three-year-old daughter go in, only to turn around almost immediately and come right back out.
Their young daughter had obviously not gotten what she wanted, and there was hell to pay.
This girl child was having an absolute public melt down.
And the poor parents just did not know what to do.
The Mom was embarrassed and getting madder by the second.
She tried to bundle her screaming daughter into the car seat.
But that was not going to happen.
The hellcat kicked herself out of the car seat and half-fell onto the pavement at her mother’s feet.
Where she jerked and twisted and screamed at the ABSOLUTE TOP OF HER LUNGS.
It was painful to watch.
The increasingly exasperated parents eventually decided on a double-team.
The ever-shrinking Dad went around the car and got into the back seat.
The Mom scooped up their hissing, biting daughter and plonked her heavily into the car seat.
The Mom slammed the door, stepped back, and left the poor Dad to buckle in their red-faced ball of anger.
God’s Purple Grace
Just then, the big lady with purple hair was slowly pushing her shopping cart by their car.
She’d seen it all and was literally oozing with compassion and love for the poor parents.
“Been there, done that,” she said, giving the Mom a big smile and a chuckle before she moved on.
I knew she was thinking, “Will they be okay? Should I try to help, or would that make it worse?”
She must have decided the latter, because she carried on.
But only for a couple of steps.
Because there is no way in the world that a big lady with purple hair, or a tiny wrinkled lady like my Mom, could leave the scene of a train wreck.
That was just not their way.
The big lady with purple hair slowly waddled back, put her arm on top of the open front car door, smiled, and tried to console the Mom.
Then she put her big arms around the Mom and hugged her.
After maybe 30 seconds, the big lady with purple hair patted the Mom on the arm, and slowly moved off.
You could just feel the relief that came over the Mom.
She wasn’t over the public humiliation, or the anger at her daughter, but she was soooooooo very much better.
By then, the hapless Dad had somehow strapped their enraged she-cat into the car seat and slammed the door.
He sort of fell into the front seat, and they drove off, both parents looking dead-straight ahead.
What Goes Around
I think that perhaps the big lady with purple hair had a hellcat daughter of her own, just as my Mom had.
The stories about my oldest sister, Lynn, are legend.
When she was about three, it would literally take my Mom, a nurse and the doctor to hold her down for a shot.
All the while, Lynn would be emitting blood-curdling screams, and spitting out the vilest cuss words she’d picked up from our Dad.
And since our Dad was a firefighter, who’d been in the Navy, these cuss words would’ve taken the paint right off a battleship.
Especially when they came out of the mouth of a curly headed, three-year-old at the doctor’s office.
Every time, Mother would be absolutely mortified, and feel like a complete and total failure.
On top of that, Mom suffered through decades of living with an alcoholic.
Despite the pain, women like my Mom, and the big lady with purple hair, somehow chose not to be bitter about the pain and suffering and humiliations they had suffered.
Instead, they chose a higher calling — to give smiles and hugs and love and laughter to anyone who needed them.
Even in a parking lot.
If you ask me, women like these, make all the difference in this life.
And I know a young Mom who would back me on that.