Cheese toast on chilly mornings worked its way deep into my favorite childhood memories after my mom died.
I remember eating the toast, but I don’t ever recall thanking the woman who made sure a piece or two was saved for me more mornings than I can count. I was young, and when you’re that young you don’t really understand the sacrifice of others. I definitely didn’t see the way our neighbor was still being a friend to my mom.
About a year or so ago, I reached out to my mom’s friend. Over 40 years had passed since she fed me cheese toast as I waited inside her house for the bus, but she graciously accepted my thanks before giving me another round of kindness.
She shared with me memories of her friendship with my mom, a friendship that has lasted more than a lifetime.
As she shared her words, she gave me a glimpse into the past I didn’t know I was so hungry for. She didn’t have to do that for me, a woman she doesn’t even know. I suspect she did it for my mom, a woman she knew very well. She even told me how proud she was of me, something I would give a lot to hear spoken from my own mother’s lips.
I believe in that kind of kindness. Kindness when no one seems to appreciate you. Kindness when your gesture seems very small. Kindness that can appear to be so insignificant but carries with it an abundance of love. My mom’s friend loved her, which made her love me too. She wanted to do something to help the young mother who was her friend, to show her how much she loved her, even after their friendship appeared to be over.
She did that by being there for me in those months after my mom died, and then she picked their friendship back up right where she had left it decades ago as she managed to encourage me all over again when I finally found my way back to her.
Back in the 70s when they were close friends, I’m sure she would have done anything to help my mom stay alive, but there was nothing she could do. Instead, she did the thing my mom could no longer do. She loved me. She gave me a warm place to wait for the school bus when it was cold outside. She shared the breakfast she had made for her own children. She gave me so much more than cheese toast those mornings.
She gave me a mother’s love, the thing I needed more than anything those months after my mom died.
I’m glad I got a chance to share with her how much her kindness meant to that little girl with long blonde hair who showed up on her front porch morning after morning. Times that I now know were very hectic for her as she busied herself getting ready for her own day while helping her three children get ready for school. She never made me feel anything but welcomed as she opened the door and let me in out of the cold.
I think of her every time I eat a piece of cheese toast, and I’m still so thankful.