I met her the day Prince died.
My phone pinged the alert of the celebrity’s death as I pulled up a chair at a table in the banquet room of a suburban church. What had happened to the musician whose work marked my teen years? He had collapsed in an elevator in his home, a news source said, but the cause of death was unknown. I slipped my phone into my purse, turning my thoughts back to the luncheon honoring Safe Families for Children host moms.
Kris sat at my table. And other women settled in too. Over lunch, we spoke of the unpredictability of nurturing kids who didn’t belong to us. Advanced cases of head lice, trips to Urgent Care for fungus or urinary tract infections, burs stuck in Afros, cussing two-year-olds. Because the call to be Jesus’ hands on this earth isn’t exactly glamorous business.
We talked about why we did it.
“I grew up in fear,” Kris said. “Fear of violence, but mostly the fear of never knowing what would happen to me and my mom.”
There was no space in her skin for self-pity. But from across the table, I could feel her resolve; over and over again, she gave kids a respite from fear.
“Let’s get together sometime,” she said to me when the event ended.
We exchanged numbers. Between us, ideas swirled. We both had our own older children, but we could arrange play dates for our new ones. And in a pinch, we could do childcare for each other.
We’re out shopping, Kris texted one day, attaching a picture of a tiny sweater dress on a store hanger. Then came a picture of the recipient of the dress—her newest little houseguest—riding in a shopping cart. The toddler, clutching a toy, peered out of the picture with wide brown eyes.
Cutie, I texted back. I want that dress.
I’ll grab you one.
Can I live at your house for a few weeks? And you can buy me toys too?
Kris’ place was Noah’s ark. Two retired senior greyhounds, a chubby brown dog, two big-boned cats, and a sassy bunny. And when little ones climbed on board to safety too, she used healthy food and a sensible schedule to turn them into happy kids in two days flat.
Kris and I met for lunches and chats and grew a friendship beyond the kids.
Do you like U2? she texted me one day in May. Her husband had a conflict and couldn’t travel with her to Miami for the concert anymore. All expenses are covered. Wanna go?
I used one full breath to think about it. I’m in! What do I owe you?
Just your life.
But she wouldn’t have had to say it.
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*Names in this blog have been changed to protect my family, neighbors, and friends in the neighborhood, and in a nod of appreciation to the beloved Swedish author Maj Lindman, I’ve renamed my three blondies Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka.