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Angel in a Grand Marquis

’Twas the season—except in a busy grocery store parking lot, where it seemed to be every mom for herself. Until assistance came from an unlikely source.

By Kristina Roth, Central California

As appeared in

Where on earth are my car keys? I thought, going from room to room with my son balanced on my hip. As soon as I’d cleaned up after breakfast, I rushed to get both of us ready to leave the house. If I was going to make it to the grocery store, I had a small window of time.

Between playdates, mealtimes and doctor’s appointments, my life could feel like a three-ring circus. Around the holidays it felt even worse. It was only December 6, and I was already overwhelmed.

My father and stepmother had just visited from South Dakota for Thanksgiving. Soon my in-laws would arrive from Ohio for Christmas. There was so much to do, and with my husband working long hours, no one to help me do it. One-year-old Gabriel didn’t yet count as a helper—to say the least!

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I found my keys lying on top of my book of saints. I’d gotten only halfway through the entry of Saint Nicholas before being interrupted.

I’d learned that Saint Nicholas was known for helping others throughout his life, often through anonymous gifts and kind gestures. Things that seemed tiny but could mean a lot to a person in need—or even a busy mother like me. I looked forward to finishing the entry. No time now!

I strapped Gabriel into our gold Grand Marquis and started to the store. I hope I can make this fast, I thought. In the parking lot I crawled up and down the aisles, hunting for a space. Today just wasn’t my day.

Finally! I pulled in and finessed Gabriel out of his car seat. I was surprised by how chilly the weather had gotten while I searched for a shopping cart with a functioning child’s seat belt. I strapped Gabriel in and pushed—squeak! I’d chosen a cart with a rogue wheel.

“It’s one thing after another,” I grumbled as I fought against the bum wheel and dug in my overstuffed bag for my shopping list at the same time.

A large box of diapers, a family-size pack of paper towels... Didn’t we need anything that wasn’t bulky? I swung by the dairy cases to pick up a jug of milk, then pushed my cart up to the registers. I loaded my big, heavy items onto the conveyer belt, remembering that this store offered no carry out service.

An unusually blustery wind stung my cheeks as I maneuvered the cart back through the lot. Eager cars circled, like vultures. A Grand Marquis almost identical to mine trailed behind me, obviously stalking me for my spot. Don’t let them rush you, I told myself. It was every man—or mom—for himself.

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I unlocked the door and buckled Gabriel into his seat. When I turned around, an elderly brown-haired woman with glasses was coming toward me. It was the driver of the other Grand Marquis. “Let me help,” she said. “You’ve got quite a load!”

I blinked in confusion. No one had ever offered to help me with my groceries. Especially not on such a cold day. She must really want me to hurry along, I thought. But the woman didn’t rush me at all. She helped me load each bag carefully into the trunk.

“I don’t know if it will all fit,” I said, holding that huge box of diapers.

“I can make it work,” she assured me. “I’ve got a few tricks!” She tucked the diapers into the remaining space and shut the trunk. “Leave the cart here. I’ll take it back to the store for you.”