So there we were in the Sam’s cafe area, Judah’s eyes trained on the football on the television above us while he stuffed hotdog into his mouth. I was cutting up little pieces and giving them to Evangeline, grabbing a bite for myself every so often. An utterly forgettable, mundane moment in the giant superstore.
Behind us an elderly, African American woman was also eating her hotdog and it took me a few minutes to realize her eyes were fixed on us. She was watching us – to be precise, my children – quite keenly and with seeming enjoyment. When the moment presented itself she asked if they were my foster children. I said, “No, Ma’am, these are my babies.” “Your babies? You adopted them? You and your husband?” “Yes, Ma’am.” “They’re yours to keep?” “Yes, Ma’am. They’re mine to keep.” Her smile got wider as I answered her questions.
She came close to Evangeline, got level with her eyes, felt her hair and started talking to her. Told her she would grow up to be good and safe and told her she wouldn’t grow up to be a heart breaker. Told her she was beautiful. She brought her face close to mine and told me to keep on doing what I was doing and that they would be good kids. “It’s what happens in the home,” she said. I looked in her eyes and wondered what burdens she carried and what stories she held in her heart.
“God bless you,” she said. “God bless you as you raise them.” She walked over to Judah and took his hand. His eyes were still trained on the television, completely unaware of this entire conversation. “You look at me when I talk to you,” she said. He did. “God bless you,” she said.
And with that she headed toward the exit. I sat there, my fingers full of hotdog, my baby getting impatient of the shopping cart and my toddler drinking as much of the soda as he could without me noticing, and the force of all she had said washed over me.
She felt ownership of my babies. That’s what it was, plain and simple. There was no resentment that they belong to me but there was ownership there – she felt invested in them, in how I raise them, in what they will, one day, grow up to be.
This is a new feeling for me. I don’t really know how to think about it. I know that I don’t resent it. Somehow she made me feel a part of something bigger, something I can’t quite put my finger on. But I also felt somewhat perplexed – not sure where to put this new thought and new feeling.
And then during our five minute family devotions the next morning Josh asked Judah the first catechism question we’re working on with him.
“What is your only comfort in life and in death?”
No clue what they mean, but happy to recite the answer and with a big grin, the words pour out of his toddler mouth: “That I am not my own, but belong, body and soul, in life and death, to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sin…”
Yes. That’s the narrative, from beginning to end, always and forever. I have a sense everything else will somehow fall into place. And I think that dear old lady would agree.