It’s a sunny November morning. I’m heading to the supermarket to snag a turkey for canning experiment number seven. I wind my way through the aisles, picking up carrots, onions, and other goodies that I need to feed my family.
In the checkout lane now, I’m waiting. In front of me, an older woman carefully places her groceries on the belt. She’s wearing a mask. A knitted cap covers her bald head, and I wonder what battle she’s fighting. Finished at last, she departs with her cart for the exit.
It’s my turn. I step up to the turnstile that holds all the bags and, looking down, I see it. She’s forgotten one bag; it holds flour. Oh, no. She will need that.
Instinct takes over, and all at once I’ve snatched up her bag, and I’m running.
My long, curly hair is flying behind me, the red bucket bag bounces on my hip, and I’m raising my voice as I run. If my four sons could see me now, I think, Mother running and shouting through the store. In the Maternal Commandments upon tables of stone, I’ve just broken numbers four and five.
“Ma’am! Excuse me!”
At last she hears me and turns around. I hand her the flour. Her face is alight. “Thank you,” she says with feeling.
Returning to the register where the young man is ringing up my purchases, I happen to glance at his nametag. “Gabe,” it says, and my heart catches.
“Your name is Gabe?” I say to him. “My youngest son’s name is Gabe. Do you know what your name means?”
Without missing a beat, he says one word. “Messenger.”
“It also means God is my strength. That’s why we chose it for our son. That means you’re a special man.” This small, not-running-now mother is looking into his face, loading the food in the cart.
“I am special,” he says. Something about the way he says it makes me pause for a beat.
“When I say ‘special,’ I mean it in all of the best ways,” I tell him.
“I am special!” He announces this with such confidence that I know he has heard it before and believes it. Then he adds one more word that explains it. “Asperger’s.” Again with that catch in my heart, and I’m focusing fully on him.
He tells me he’s 20, that he’s planning to move out soon, that he wants to buy his own place, and he’s working to build up his credit. “Look at you!” I exclaim. “You’re holding a job. That’s amazing.” And this mother, she means every word.
Finished now, he hands me the receipt. “Thank you. Have a nice day,” he chirps.
“Thank you,” I reply. “You’re a blessing.” And with that, I am heading for home. Home to my husband. Home to my sons. Home to a young cub named Gabe, our Gabe who shares a very special name with a very special man, the son of another mother.
In autumn’s chilly light, I give thanks. I give thanks for mothers who love their children fiercely. For women who are real mothers through and through. Such women have steel in their souls, fire in their eyes, and the feathery softness of nesting hens. With such, they comfort, defend, protect, and nourish their young.
Because of their steadfast love, their children are settled, secure, and convinced that they are “special.” Their children, I know, are blessed.
If you are such a woman, I honor you. If you were raised by one of these, may you give thanks for, “You are special.”
Happy Thanksgiving from my home to yours.