Unwavering certainty is extraordinary, my most convincing conviction being the day I met an in-the-flesh angel. I had not consciously chosen motherhood, but rather, I toppled headfirst into it before my eighteenth birthday. The boy and I had married, believing we were doing the right thing by taking responsibility for our naivete about birth control. And when I laid eyes on my precious baby girl, I fell head over heels. This child was meant to be, and our encounter with divinity that day was proof positive.
It didn’t require a soothsayer to predict the challenges two children would encounter as they faced the realities of premature adulthood. However, we were bright kids with a good support system, so our lives could have been much more complicated. Finances were meager, but my husband was a go-getter, dogged in the pursuit of his dreams. We always managed to get by one way or another.
In the fall of 1975, a few months after our daughter, Kacy, turned three, we were living above the guitar shop we’d opened earlier that year. We weren’t supposed to be living in the commercial space, but in a typical hippie fashion, we bucked the rules and set up housekeeping.
We had bedrooms, a bathroom, and a partial kitchen of our own making, but nowhere on the premises were a washer and dryer. This deficiency meant I either imposed on my parents’ home laundry facilities or went to the laundromat about a block or so away from the shop. That afternoon I had no car, so it had to be the laundromat.
Our shop was adjacent to a university campus, so autumn was bustling both inside the shop and on the urban streets. I knew that Kacy would not have anyone to watch over her at the shop, so my only option was to take her with me. Even though my tiny sprite was only three years old, she was a precocious and intelligent child. We were buds. I enjoyed her company and marveled at how charming she was with everyone she met. I surmised we’d have some fun chatting with the folks in a crowded laundromat.
I had one large basket to transport all the laundry. It would all fit, but the wicker basket itself weighed at least five pounds. Add in our blue jeans, sweaters, towels, bedding, and other clothes, and it took all my strength to carry it with both hands and all my upper body strength.
I could handle the effort, but my dilemma was how to keep my child safe while we crossed the one busy street between the shop and the laundromat. No one was available, or maybe I was unwilling to ask someone, to carry my basket for me, so I devised a dubious plan.
I crouched at Kacy’s eye level and said to her in my most somber tone, “Mommy needs you to hold onto her hip pocket while we walk across the street. You mustn’t let go – no matter what. Do you understand?” Looking at me with equally serious blue-green eyes, she nodded her comprehension to which I added, “Do not let go!” and I patted my hip pocket to reinforce the instruction. I stood, hoisted the basket, and told her it was time to grab my pocket. We crossed without a hitch.
The rest of the walk was all sidewalk and Kacy wisely held on as I paced the walk for her short-legged gait. We reached the laundromat and loaded the washers quickly. While we waited for washers to wash and dryers to dry, the other patrons and employees talked with us – mostly Kacy – until we were ready to pack the basket with folded clothes and return.
The return trip was the same route in reverse, but again, I was uneasy about Kacy’s safety. I repeated the instructions to hold onto my hip pocket, and now knowing the drill, we walked the concrete path toward the cross street. When we arrived at the point where we would need to cross the street again, I was reiterating the hold-my-pocket directive when out of nowhere a young guy in a plaid flannel shirt and jeans stepped in front of me and pulled the basket from my hands.
“Where are you going with this?” he asked.
“Just across the street to the music shop. See? It’s that door right there.” He turned and crossed the street. I scooped up Kacy in my arms and walked long strides to catch up.
As we entered the shop, he further inquired, “Where does this go?”
I pointed to the doorway that led to steps that rose to our living quarters.
The shop was busy with customers, and I was gathering my bearings for a couple of moments until I could thank the stranger who gifted us with his random act of kindness. As I peered up the steps to the second floor, I could see the basket, but he wasn’t with it. I knew he couldn’t have gotten past me, especially in those short moments since we entered the shop.
I looked around and didn’t see him. I looked out the window and there was no sign of him. All this scanning to find the generous stranger took less than a minute’s time. So, I turned to the employee who was working that afternoon and asked, “Bob, where is the guy that came in with us?”
Bob replied, “What guy?”
“The guy that carried our laundry basket and took it upstairs for me. You must have seen him.”
Bob gave me a confounded look and said, “I didn’t see anyone with you. No one came down from upstairs.”
In that instant, I knew. I had listened skeptically to others share mystical tales of angel encounters. After what had just happened, I didn’t need any other explanations. My gut and my heart were sending me certainty. Goosebumps ran up and down my body. It was divine intervention that sent this light being in an instant to intercede for our safety. When I reflect on what might have happened that afternoon as Kacy and I returned from the laundromat, I am certain our angel was watching over us and became manifest to keep us safe from harm. As I replay this memory nearly fifty years later, I see each step of that fortuitous meeting vividly. My mind’s eye plays every detail in slow motion except for one. I never saw his face.