Last Thursday, we went to Green Lake to celebrate the life of our friend Lee. Before we could join the gathering, we had to find parking, which is no easy feat after 6 PM in one of the busiest neighborhoods in Seattle. We managed to catch two women stopped in front of a car, one was holding a baby and the two were talking. Mike turned on his signal, the international sign for, “AHEM! WE ARE WAITING!” The younger woman waved at us, said, “Sorry!” as she ran from one end of the car to the other. Mike started sighing when the woman spread a blanket on the grassy patch next to the car. I said, “It looks like she’s changing her baby!”
There was more talk between the two. I assumed they were mother and daughter and maybe they hadn’t seen each other in while, so I was willing to refrain from rolling my eyes. Then it dragged on. And on. And it was about ten minutes of their chatting and hugging and then chatting again before the baby was finally strapped into her car seat, the huge jogging strolled folded up and stored in the trunk and there was finally some movement. The older woman waved at her again and then started walking toward our car. I was preparing for an “oh no you didn’t” moment in case this woman was going to school us on proper waiting for open parking space etiquette.
She said, “I’m sorry you waited so long, but this woman almost lost her baby. She didn’t set the brake on her stroller and it rolled into the lake. There were a lot of people helping out and I wanted to walk her to her car to make sure she calmed down.”
Mike gasped while I yelled, “OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD!” Mike thanked her for being there for this mother, a complete stranger in need of help.
I wouldn’t have known that was what had happened. I assumed that she and her baby were in wet clothes from being in the wading pool, not from frantically extracting her stroller from a lake. I assumed that they knew each other and that’s why they talked so long. I made so many assumptions in those minutes and none of them were correct. The woman left, the car drove off and we rolled into the space she left, feeling like the marginal people who huff and swear at a woman who is just trying to get her child safely in the car, a child she almost lost just moments ago.
We walked toward the condo, holding hands and wondering what if that had been us. Wondering what we would have done. What if. I gripped my husband’s hand as we made it toward Lee’s memorial, ready to remember a life that has passed, grateful for the lives we still have, even if our hearts are beating a more frantic pace.