This morning during drop-off at school, I was “making scenes” with Humphrey, a stuffed Ty teddy bear my son picked up at a Hobby Lobby a few years ago, when something extraordinary happened. “Making scenes” is what my six-year-old calls the series of silly things Humphrey does as we wait our turn in the line. He might bash his head against the radio knob and bob along to classical music, for example, or try to cram himself into the small sunglasses compartment above my head. Humphrey, you see, is a little nuts.
And as Humphrey was flipping himself over and under the spaces in the steering wheel, my son giggling loudly in the back, I noticed something in my peripheral vision. I looked over to the car next to me in the parallel line to see a mom pressing a stuffed puppy against her window. Realizing that she was also trying to signal my attention, I rolled down the passenger window and smiled.
This is when the extraordinary thing happened.
The mom, whose name I didn’t get, said that she had been playing with her daughter’s stuffed puppy (“Floofy”) and looked over to discover another mom doing the same thing. We chatted for a second, mostly discovering names (of our kids, not each other) and what grades the kids were in and which teachers we had.
I noticed that the puppy she was holding was the same as one my son had in the car at that moment, so he fished it out of his Bag of Friends — the bag full of stuffed animals he insists on carrying with us no matter the length of the car ride — and proceeded to make it “talk” to the little girl in the car next to us. For another minute or so, they communicated in high-pitched barks and squeaks, speaking a made-up language devoid of actual content but steeped in imagination.
And then it was over, and we moms smiled at each other and rolled up our windows and went back to our own little world inside our individual cars.
Did you catch it? The extraordinary thing? It’s not that a mom and kid in the car next to mine had the same puppy as my son and were playing the same silly game with it that I was with a stuffed bear. Although that is amusing, the extraordinary thing is that for a few minutes, two sets of humans connected over a shared experience in a completely normal way.
It wasn’t a great revelation. There was no swell of orchestral music or halo of light to indicate anything special had happened at all. And that’s just it. It wasn’t special. A mom rolled down her window to talk to another mom. Two kids barked at each other while holding the same stuffed puppy. End scene.
The last year and a half has been rough, and the light at the end of the tunnel, once a beacon drawing us back to the world we knew before, has felt pretty dim lately. I sometimes wonder if we’ve just moved past the ability to see eye to eye. But then things like this happen, small moments of human connection that remind me we are not that different.
I don’t know this mom’s political or religious beliefs. I don’t know how she feels about the environment or her opinions on Harry Potter or whether she’s properly prepared for the inevitable takeover by our robot overlords. Would it change my opinion of her to know these things? Of course it would. I’m human. I have opinions and beliefs, and they matter.
But for a couple of minutes in the car line this morning, these things didn’t matter. I saw another person as just another person, another mom doing silly things to entertain her kindergartner just like I was. And it was a wonderful, extraordinary thing, this glimpse into the ordinary life of a fellow human being.