Home Sunday Commentary Here's to the Mothers on the Bus

Here's to the Mothers on the Bus


Here’s to the mothers on the bus.
Here’s to the women climbing on with toddlers, kids bearing bright faces to sit among strangers while she finds the pass, the right change, shifts loads and wrestles with a stroller. These women need extra arms, but make due with only two, using their mouth as a temporary stand-in. Sometimes it looks like they’re juggling, hand to mouth.
You can tell how well she’s doing by the language of the stroller: colossal is not so bad, but the slight and fragile doll’s stroller evokes a collective silent sigh of pity. Does she understand geometry like Ted Kaczynski and quickly click her stroller into the impossibly small place beside the seat? Or is she one of the exhausted ones, banging into things in a percussive orchestra?
This is going to take a minute. They settle in on the seat amidst piles: child, stroller, bags. Here’s to their infinite bags of necessities. Everything moves at the pace of the mom.
Some are still young enough to make you wonder where their years are going. Some stare sightless at the air.
Some watch the kid. The child is standing, boots on Mom’s lap, head up with oblivious confidence. She is the architecture of the kid’s elevation. Suddenly the kid tries to jump off the seat, leaping for a fall. But her reflexes are super-human and she grabs him by the seat of the pants. This life saving motion will never be memorialized in a Disney Marvel film. The kid yells at being held back. The kid yells at having to wear shoes. She turns the child to look right at her; he grabs her cheek and smiles, quiets.
Her child plays peek-a-boo with strangers and everybody’s chuckling, even on a dreary workday. Here’s to the mothers who bring on the stars of the bus.
This is the most important job in the world, that’s written into Hallmark cards. But to the mothers on public transportation, only they know it. They’d never find that out by watching the world.
Here’s to the mom in February, seeing the bus pull away just yards ahead and she cannot run fast enough, or yell loud enough to be heard. The next bus doesn’t come for an hour and the snow, like termites, infests her cheap jacket and sneaks down her neck. How do you keep the baby warm? How do you get to the doctor’s by 3:00? This is the most important job in the world.
Yesterday, a man in the back of the bus called out, “Driver, wait! There’s a mother trying to catch the bus!” and immediately every breath hung on the air, anticipating his decision. There’s a mother… Would he wait? Would she make it? The driver paused for 50 long seconds, straining his schedule as they trickled by. Slowly, she watched cars pass, and pushed her colossal stroller across three lanes without a stop-light. While anyone childless would have run, she walked, keeping her child steady. When she got on, she gave the softest, small smile.
This is how we make this work: It takes a stranger calling out, and all of us waiting together, to make sure a mother can catch a bus.