I saw your family first. I saw all three of your children and your husband as they made their way across the mall parking lot. The kids had on clean, matching, spring outfits. Your husband was wearing khaki shorts, loafers, and a stain free pressed pastel polo. I assumed you were all here for the Easter bunny to take a family photo together.
I didn’t see you then. I only giggled to myself as your kids were walking backwards while yelling “Come on Mommy! Hurry!”. I giggled because I could imagine wherever you were in the parking lot, you had sent your husband on with the kids so you could make sure you had wipes for when they asked for ice cream, double check you grabbed your phone keys and wallet, picking up the chips they spilled on the ride over so they didn’t become further trampled into the carpet when they reentered the vehicle. I knew that feeling too. I lost interest before I saw you though.
Later I ran into your family again by the Easter bunny. They had just gotten off the train ride in the center of the mall. Little matching spring outfits scurrying up to dad in his well put together attire to tell him all about your ride with them. I lingered and waited to see what you looked like out of curiosity. I imagined the mother and wife of this family must be well put together. I bet shes wearing a matching summer dress, she probably had killer hair, and her shoes will definitely be on point.
You came out of the train area just far enough behind them to have checked the carts for any items they missed. You were beautiful in the most heart breaking way. My over emotional ass almost lost it right there in the giant carrot and cabbage props of the Easter display. My kids were already being herded onto the ride before I noticed because I was so focused on every detail of you.
You were wearing a much loved and faded pair of black leggings. Your t-shirt looked as though you probably bought it years earlier in less stressful, more kid free times. The wrinkles of your shirt said you had grabbed it out of a laundry pile on the way out of the door. What was once some sort of event advertisement was now only pieces of vinyl clinging to cotton. A basic pair of flip flops, you likely owned for many summers, slapped the platform under your feet. Your dark hair was pulled back haphazardly into a low pony tail as though you simply needed it out of your way. If you were even wearing makeup it was so minimal it went unnoticed.
You were the walking embodiment of what being a mom feels and looks like in 2018. You were grinning ear to ear as your kids jumped up and down about riding again or seeing the Easter Bunny or whatever plans you guys had in store. You just kept smiling, but I saw you.
I told my husband about you. I felt you, a stranger, with every ounce of empathy in my body. You were so beautiful in the way I could see you pressing on. I know there was a time you took care of you; a time you probably couldn’t dream of leaving the house in anything less than jeans and mascara. Now, here you were so invested in your family that you had given up on yourself.
I’m not shaming women who don’t care about their looks. I outgrew that phase with my second child also. I see it all the time, but you were different. I could see how tired you were. I could see you drawn into yourself, avoiding the attention and scurrying your kids off to the next event. Your husband, attractive also, seemed to stand tall and gleam with the kids, while you drug up the rear picking up all the little pieces of clutter kids leave. I just imagined you crying in your tub at night when you’re alone, as many of us do. Then you get up the next morning and soldier on.
Teen girls won’t fawn over your style. Men won’t hit on you as you walk through the mall. Young men won’t refer to you as a MILF, but to women like me, you stand out in a crowd. You’re not alone Momma. You were Beautiful.
I saw you.