open seat

A nudge. That I ignored. A small voice in my head that told me to find the teenage mom I had seen on the plane and buy her lunch. Instead I convinced myself she was fine. If she could buy a plane ticket. Surely she could buy lunch. So I ordered my green tea, found my book, plugged in my ipod and read until they could find us another plane. And I was totally wrong.

After hours delayed, they finally let us reboard. And I kind of hate Southwest’s policy of choosing your own seats. Usually I look for a someone with a book out, so I know that I will be uninterrupted for the majority of my flight.
I got a few rows back. And saw her again. The one I didn’t buy lunch. And thought, even though her baby screamed the whole way here, that I have a pretty high screaming tolerance. My kids have done their share. And that maybe I’d be a little more understanding than most. That maybe the kid would just take a nap this flight. Both of them.

Instead I got a little more than I bargained for.
Within minutes the mom had asked me to be her facebook friend and told me when she lost her virginity.
I happily asked to hold the baby and got her through take off without too many screams by getting her to take a bottle. Eventually she took a nap, and mom stowed her below the seat. Right next to my backback. I tried not to say anything and read my book. I even got out my headphones. But, mom kept talking. She wanted to open the window (ON THE PLANE), she wanted to tell me about the party she went to the night before, about her new tattoo, about her plans to go back to school, about her boyfriend, how much she loved her daughter, about her c-section, about how much she was unsure of.

And I listened. And did my best not to judge. Which took some effort. And picked the baby up off the floor. And we giggled. The baby. The mom and me. And we talked about music and teething and if she had a ride or a coat and how cute her little girl was.

And I tried to sneak in a few nuggets. Like that smoking (anything) is bad for her asthma. And the baby. The marijuana is in fact illegal. That her baby might have pink eye and need some drops. That she has a tooth coming in. That gum will help her ears pop (the mom not the baby). That my tattoo is about Jesus. That we all screw up. But that when you have kids you have to stop being one and that is hard no matter how old you are. That you should take help any where you can get it. From nice guys on airplanes who are willing to rock your screaming baby up and down the aisle while you chat in the back. From ex-boyfriends mom’s who buy you plane tickets and hamburgers and give you a place to sleep. And from a girl, who eventually shoves her book back in her backpack. Who does her best to just listen. Who writes back.

And it would have been easy to sit somewhere else. Far away from screaming and needy. Or it would have been easy to turn up my headphones. Or to judge. Or to lecture. Or to preach. To not hear her story or hold her baby or to wipe the spitup off my shirt.

And when my friend came to pick me up. I was waiting at baggage claim, rocking this sweet little thing. While mom charged her cell phone in the bathroom.

And her mom needed a little help. Not a lecture. To be listened to and not judged. Which is most likely the case no matter who you are sitting next to.


Kate said...

My favorite minister always talked about Jesus' radical acceptance. His sermons pushed me to think about how I could be more like that. (and convinced me to be baptized)
You are putting that into action. It awes me and inspires me. Thank you.

Kier's Serendipity said...

Thank you for sharing your story today. It is incredibly powerful and has given me more than a nugget to think about. Would I do the same as what you did or would I have ignored her? I do not know the answer to that question. Thank you for making me think about that and to do some soul searching.

Margie said...

Love what you did here. There are conversations all of us remember having - either a passing remark or several hours of wisdom. I hope you're one whom she will remember, and whose words she will take into consideration in years to come. But who knows? But you put yourself out there. And that matters.

spaghettipie said...

Michelle, this is one of the many, many reasons why you inspire me - push me to be a better person. I love how you make yourself available to others, and don't shy away from the hard stuff.