Emergency contact

She lived on my street. But she didn’t just live on my street. She was a neighbour, but she wasn’t just a neighbour.

She was a wife. She was a mom.

She was a breath of fresh air every time I saw her. She never had anything but positive, supportive things to say. She was a terrific mother. A great mother, the kind who unintentionally would make me feel like I didn’t do enough or well enough by my own children, by not being able to spend as much meaningful time with them, by having to rush through everything with them because there was too much to go through in too little time. Though she would have been horrified to know that I had this feeling, and it must be noted that I have this guilt regardless, somehow she may have realized my fears.

She would call to thank me for having her son to my house. My house long ago began an open door policy for any of the neighbourhood kids who wanted to come hang out with my kids. I don’t expect thank yous, but she was the only mom who ever did. She would stop by and mention how great it was for my son to have been over, and what a polite boy he is and what a “great job” I am doing. She talked about my daughter’s sense of humour and how proud I must be of her. She asked if on school forms she could put me down as the emergency contact for her son. How she would just feel better knowing it was me.

The affliction of the single working mom is the fear of always being considered a second-class parent by the “true” moms. She never knew what it meant that she, the kind of mother I want to be when I grow up, would embrace me as a fellow parent in that way.

Actually, I think perhaps she did.

I didn’t actually know her as well as I wanted to. I wish I had known her better. I wish that the last time I saw her I knew it would be the last time I would see her.

I would have expressed this immense gratitude I have for her. This tremendous respect I have for her. This tremendous admiration I had for her positive attitude, her warming welcome, and for raising lovely, lovely children.

There’s a loose screen door off my dining room balcony. Last week I was sitting here reading when I thought I heard a knocking; we’re a split-level so the balcony is one storey up. I jumped to my feet thinking our neighbour’s cat must have vaulted over, and I’d have to grab him and take him back next door again. But there was no cat on the balcony. The screen door was just knocking back and forth with the wind, which also was blowing the curtains into the house. Obviously, no one was out there knocking on the door. As I went to grab the sliding door to close it, I realized that the wind has never actually blown in that direction through this house before, either. I stood there for a minute, the warm, unusual wind rushing past me.

I think in a way it was her; she was stopping by, or maybe just passing through. It was such an honour for the visit. She may have now become aware of the unforgettable impact she had, even for something that to her was simply natural. Being a good human, generous of spirit.

I want to pay tribute to her, and let her know, I hope she knows, that I will always be her emergency contact, and what a special honour it is.


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