I will start this off as all good sisterhood stories begin.
“Picture It, Nebraska, Christmastime, 2018” (read with the voice of Sofia from the Golden Girls), I texted my dear sister-friend, Andrea. The following is a snippet of our text conversation as Andrea documented on her Facebook page:
Me: “Hey, do you want to drive 2 hours with five kids aged 9 and under to look at some crazy Christmas lights for 30 minutes and then turn around and drive two hours home?”
Andrea: “Um, duh. Yesssss!!!”
And so it began.
We planned our Saturday to drive to Ponca, Nebraska, to see the winners of the ABC Show, “The Great Christmas Light Fight.” It’s what any sane pair of friends would do to delight their children, right? We set off to Ponca after rearranging car seats, boosters, and potential disastrous seating arrangements. We are teachers for crying out loud, what could possibly go wrong? The first hour and fifty minutes were scenic and uneventful. We heard the mutterings of my then two-year-old cataloging every cow he saw along the way (I’m sure you can imagine how many times we listened to the word, cow), but not even a single, “Are we there yet?” had been uttered. We were near to our first destination, the bar in a nearby town for an early dinner. It was around 4 or 4:30pm. I had just enough time to put on my new Color Street nails before dinner.
Then, we heard the retching.
The two-year-old had gotten car sick.
The good news was that it was just the water throw up. Right? That’s good news. Andrea quickly pulled over as I stepped in a giant pile of mud. In my sweater Uggs. That didn’t go well. I walked around the SUV to assess the damage. Water puke saturated his clothes and car seat. What now? I looked in the back to see if I had an extra outfit in the car. I had a hoodie. Yes, my son was going to wear a Pull-up and a Daniel Tiger hoodie in near-freezing temps to view Christmas lights. (Not really…but, that was the current option.) I cleaned up the mess, put on the Pull-up and hoodie, and we formulated a plan.
Small Town? No Problem…Or is it?
We weren’t going to go back home. He was only carsick, and four other kids had been waiting for the Christmas decorations for hours. We would drive to Ponca and stop at a Dollar Store or something, and I’d buy a new outfit. Easy enough. Until we pulled into Ponca.
Something you should know about me upfront is that I am from California originally. This may seem insignificant, but where I grew up, there were not many small farming towns around, and least none the size of Ponca. And, if there were, you could just go to the next one to find what you were looking for. I did not anticipate a town that didn’t have a clothing store or even a Dollar General or Dollar Tree. I checked with the gas station attendant, and she did not seem hopeful, but she gave me a print-out with directions to the Christmas decorations, so at least I’d accomplished something.
There was a B & S Trading Post Grocery listed on my Google Map. Surely I could find a kids’ t-shirt at the grocery store. It’s still Nebraska. Doesn’t EVERY grocery store have a Husker section?! We decided to try there. When we pulled up, there was a laundromat next door. I figured, worst-case scenario, I would launder the clothes while we ate, and my toddler and I could just eat in the SUV. I got out and saw a man with a toddler in his hands and decided to ask him where the best place to get some children’s clothes might be. He looked at me with that blank stare.
A Sister from the Sisterhood
“Ummm…yeah. You could go to Vermillion, South Dakota, or Sioux City, Iowa.” I stared back equally perplexed.
“Where are you from?” he asked.
“Oh.” He looked through his car for clothes he could lend us but didn’t have anything. He explained that there was a cashier inside who might be able to help, or his sister, Jenny, was also inside. “Just look for a woman with two kids, that’s Jenny.” I asked him his name, and he gave it to me so that at least I would look like less of a crazed lunatic when I accosted “Jenny” in the store to ask for advice.
From Strangers to Sisters
As I approached the only woman with two kids in the grocery store, I felt like Dorothy when she first landed in Oz. I was definitely NOT in Kansas anymore (figuratively speaking.) “Hi, is your name Jenny? I know this is strange, but I met your brother Chris out in the parking lot, and he said you might be able to help me.” She looked at me with bright eyes and a smile and listened intently as I explained our situation. I was just looking for somewhere, anywhere, to buy my son a new outfit to wear. We were going to see the lights. Jenny smiled and offered to have us follow her to her house after she was done grocery shopping, and she would give me one of her son’s outfits. I inquired about her son’s age, and she told me that he would be three in March.
“Oh, my son will be three in March as well. What date?” And that is where it got crazy.
“March 17,” Jenny said. St. Patrick’s Day. The exact same day as my son’s birthday. Same day. Same year. How’s that for coincidences? Jenny also happens to be a teacher, too, just like Andrea and me. I had found a friend, a sister.
I tried to pay for Jenny’s groceries, but she wouldn’t let me. She just kept saying if she were in my situation, she would want someone to help her. I was thankful for the help. We went to her house, and she gave me an outfit, a hug, and sent us on our way. After we ate pizza, we went to the Christmas light display. My son kept throwing up the rest of the way home, apparently, not just carsickness after all. All the while, Andrea, my dear sister-friend, reached back from the passenger seat to try to catch his vomit in a cup.
Kindness from the Sisterhood
Raising kids takes a village. That’s what they say. That night, I had a community of moms. How did Jenny know that I wasn’t some crazy lunatic trying to break into her house? What friends do you have who would try to catch your kid’s vomit and keep smiling? I am thankful for the kindness of the sisterhood of moms from that night. I’m sure we’ve all had those moments where we survived motherhood because of someone else’s mom.