My mom needn’t worry about me. But, of course, she does. What mom wouldn’t?! Her only son, his age beside the point, is traveling across the country with no concrete plans and is staying with new strangers everyday. I’m constantly asked, “What did your parents say when you left?” “Don’t your parents worry about you?” And every time I answer with a “Yes!” or a “Of course!” They then look at me with an expression that clearly says, How has he lasted so long without his mother’s care… But what people don’t understand is that though my mother isn’t necessarily walking with me, her motherly duties are carried out by many (many!) others.
Since I walk into a new town everyday, I’ve met tons of new people and have stayed with many different families. And while all the families have been very unique in their own special way, there’s always one similarity; There is a mother to worry over me. It seems everyday I’m being shown into a new house for the night, following behind a bustling mom. They insist I take a shower immediately and then shove platefuls of food beneath my nose. While I eat they secretly grab clothes out of my pack and throw them in the wash. I continually tell these mothers that my bag is already too heavy as they stuff my new laundered clothes back into my pack, along with 5 pounds of beef jerky, a bunch of bananas, 4 water bottles, and enough bandages to cover my entire body. But whenever I protest against any of this, they shoot me a fiery glance that stops me in my tracks, my words dangling from my mouth. Their look says it all. For just today, I am your mother and you’ll do what you are told! While I pretend that this is a bother, inside my heart is glowing. I think I would have long given up on this walk if it wouldn’t have been for all these amazing ladies taking me in under their motherly wings as I pass through.
This morning was no different as I said goodbye to Jerri, a wonderful lady who made sure my stay in Cochran, GA was as comfortable as possible. After a tour of the town and meeting all the people of interest who reside there I was on my way. A few hours after saying goodbye to Jerri I was nearing the halfway point for the day and decided to go into a gas station to get my daily dose of chocolate milk. As I neared the checkout counter the clerk asked me if I was walking. For what seemed like the one billionth-gazillionth time I retold my story and the people around me exclaimed and patted me on the back. While it was becoming annoying telling the same story over and over, its always nice to get encouragement. I then heard a feeble cough and someone clearing their throat from behind me. I turned around and saw a very elderly lady staring up at me. She was no taller than five feet tall and she was hunched forward from old age. She wore large horn rimmed glasses that made her eyes bulge like an insects. Her mouth was twitching and it looked like she was having trouble mustering up the courage to say something. “You’re walking all alone?” she finally croaked, her voice cracking as she finished. I nodded. She took a step closer and asked in the softest voice, “Does your mother know where you are?” The people around the counter laughed but her eyes were growing wider with concern and she seemed on the verge of tears.
“Yes.” I quietly replied, trying to reassure her with my smile. This didn’t seem to do the trick as she continued to peer up at me, her shimmering eyes surveying my own. She grabbed both of my arms with her hands and squeezed them tightly. The people around the counter had stopped laughing and were now looking on in a mixture of uncertainty and interest. She then pulled me into a hug, her arms wrapped tightly around my waist. At first I was taken back that this batty old lady was giving me such an embrace in front of complete strangers. But as she continued to hug me, I heard her give a quiet sob. A mother’s love has no bounds. After a few moments she let me go, her big watery eyes looking up at me. She then said very quietly, “She misses you.”