Mr. Carolina, Lil C, the Okie, and I were traveling on I-40, trying to get Lil C home to Kansas City in time for his mamma’s birthday. Crossing into New Mexico felt like a homecoming to me, even though I wouldn’t see my friends in Taos for several months.
We pulled into Gallup needing gas for the van. We started our money-making endeavors at a gas station. While we were there, we talked to some other travelers. They were from Oklahoma I think, and they gave us a handful of change. The boys took turns sitting with me on the brick planter near the doors to the convenience store; we held our cardboard sign saying we were going home and out of gas.
The going home part was true for half of us. Lil C was going home to his mamma, and now that we were on the 40, Mr. Carolina was heading to his family for the holidays. The Okie didn’t seem to have anywhere particular in mind, and my plans were nebulous at best. But some of us were going home, so the sign was true. As for the out of gas part, if we weren’t currently totally out of gas, we would be soon.
So we held our sign, and kind people blessed us with some dollars, until the manager told us we had to leave. That’s typically how it happened, so we weren’t surprised or upset. We decided to try our luck at Wal-Mart and headed that way.
At the shopping center housing the Wal-Mart, I found the most promising exit and positioned myself there. It was a weekend afternoon, so there was a lot of traffic. I’d been standing there a while and had made some money for our cause when an obviously pregnant woman with two little kids in tow approached me. She was upbeat and friendly and told me she was the girlfriend of one of the travelers we’d met at the gas station. (The boyfriend had described us to her, I guess.) She wondered how much longer I planned to stand there at the Wal-Mart because she was hoping to get a chance to stand there with her sign and try to bring in some funds for her family. I allowed I’d be willing to give up the spot at two o’clock, which was about 40 minutes away. She said she and the kids would hang around until then.
Are you on your way home to Oklahoma? I asked her.
Honey, she replied, I’m nine months pregnant and four centimeters dilated. I ain’t going nowhere!
I was impressed. Nine months pregnant is one thing, but four centimeters dilated is serious.
I stood there with my sign for a while more, but my heart wasn’t in it. If that pregnant woman was four centimeters dilated and ready to stand outside Wal-Mart flying a sign, she must really, really need the money. I’d gotten some dollars, enough to get some gas in the van and get us down the road, probably enough to get me and the boys each a hamburger for dinner too. I was ready to go.
When Mr. Carolina came to check on me, I told him about the pregnant woman, told him I was ready to relinquish my spot to her.
As we drove away from Wal-Mart, we saw the pregnant woman and the two little kids standing at the exit. The woman was holding a big sign that said family in need She held the sign in such a way that her pregnantness clearly showed. The little kids jumped up and down and waved at each passing car.
Personally, if I had kids, I’d be nervous to have them with me while flying a sign admitting I wasn’t able to provide for them. I’d be afraid CPS might come along and ask questions. But maybe CPS in New Mexico is too busy for such inquiries.
In any case, what they were doing seemed to be working for them, and I hope they’re all ok, wherever they are now.