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The wind seems to go crazy. It hurries in gusts over the passers-by on the sidewalk, shakes the panels with smiling faces advertising kinds of toothpaste, turns the hats of desperate women into flying saucers.

I look around and try to find a place of refuge, while my hands are desperately stuck in the hat pulled over my ears. I am terribly scared to be forced of running after it among people, in the same way as the woman next to me who seems to push herself like a rocket without direction following her flying hat.

Honestly, I don't like shopping. I have accepted to be asked: are you a woman, when I said I'm not interested to visit the street with a lot of shops.

Yes, it seems I am not like almost all the women that adore this way to spend their time. I don't apologize for this even if this appears as a huge sin in the eyes of my fellow women. Shopping relaxes them. For me, it's not only tiring but, when it is in excess, it gets on my nerves. But now I am desperately looking for a store to enter. The winter blizzard is not joking but it is playing its game with force, turning the snow with big and gentle flakes into swirls and whip-like blows. Yah, I do need shelter, at least for a few minutes.

A supermarket opens automatic doors in front of me and I don't wait for another invitation. I rush inside.

I'm looking around. People walk past me, alone, or two at a time, but still alone, pairs holding hands and looking into each other's eyes ... 

 I can see a man and a woman are holding the hands of a little girl with blond curls coming out from under the red hat, and with eyes laughing like two twinkling stars.

For a flying second, it seems to me that the little girl is smiling at me and a heatwave is running through my body. I move on and try to orient myself. What to look for, what to buy? I need to do something until the storm outside calms down or at least until I have the courage to go out.

In front of me, the children's clothing section displays its offers from clothes like for the dolls from my childhood to serious ski suits, even if with miniature sizes. I smile. The look of the little girl with blonde curls appears in front of my mind's eyes. I associate it with the warm gaze of her mother and the warm eyes of the man who probably is her father. And it seems so normal to me this obvious love.

I felt it in my history. I see it in the eyes of those around me, in different hypostasis, and with different intensities.

I can't say that I saw myself or that I would soon see myself as a parent, a mother. I have so many things to do for now. No matter if my family keeps talking to me about the biological clock and its importance! No, it's not something for me yet. Definitely not!

I want to go out. I must do it. I'm looking out the wide windows of the mall and apparently, I'm feeling the outside blizzard-like hitting against my own skin.

I will leave. I have nothing to do in this sea of people who waste their time in dressing rooms, among hangers or in front of stands, next to salespeople who smile at them. What a wide and fake smile they have with their mouth outstretched to the ears. What a bit of luck for them to have ears, otherwise they would smile all around their head.

I don't need anything now so I better face the blizzard.

The people around the young woman rush. The alarm rings so loudly and all that commotion moves towards the outdoors.

Joanna remains stuck into her incapacity to decide what to do. After a few minutes (long minutes, an eternity) she is alone in the huge space already emptied. She feels panic slipping slowly into his soul, accompanied by chills. She tries to get moving but something unknown holds her blocked. A baby whimpering, a baby crying is distinctive sounding from behind the hanger holders, on her right. Joanna runs in that direction. On the floor, in an elegant basket, a baby cries. "God, how can somebody leave and forget a baby?" This is the first thought that crosses the woman's mind. She leans over his frail body and she is looking dazed seeing the tears running down his small cheeks. A piece of paper is lying on the multicolored blanket that covers the basket. Joanna takes it with trembling hands and reads with widely open eyes. “Take me with you. I have no one. My name is Andrew.”

She feels her knees weak, and she easily and trembling lowered herself next to the basket in front of her. Two big little eyes are looking questioningly and curiously through crystal clear tears.

Astonishment and bewilderment bring to her mind an avalanche of memories.

Joanna had developed, in time, a habit of watching the lives of stork families that had made cubes over the years of her childhood near her grandparents' garden.

During her childhood vacations, she watched the storks as much as he could. During the spring weekends of the school semesters, when she had succeeded to reach her grandparents, she observed how the storks arrive, how the nests were built, and the eggs hatched. She was fascinated to see both father and mother feeding their youngest with devotion after hatching.

Then, in the summertime, she was watching the flight training that storks’ parents organized for their kids. Joanna still has in her eyes the first lessons of moving the wings. The dad-stork rose elegantly from his nest under the attentive observation of the kid-storks. The kid-storks watched intently as their father moved his large wings and then, in turn, conscientiously performed the movement. The mother-stork had another duty during this time. She was finding food on the nearby meadow. It was always a pleasure for the Joanna to see how she was walking like a model on the fashion-catwalk, balancing elegantly her white wings edged with black, and rising delicately and coquettishly her small head.

When their father left for finding food, the mother-stork used to become a flight instructor.

The next step was represented by independently flight shifts, with one little stork at a time, supervised by one of the parents. All the kids were taught slowly and patiently by both their mother and father to leave the nest and to return to.

Once learned, the chicks had to participate together with their parents in the “conferences” of the storks destined to organize the autumn flights for the migration to the warm countries. Joanna clearly remembers that moment when she marveled in front of the stork perched on a mound of earth, carefully watched by rows of storks arranged around her on the mound, as in upside-down amphitheater, where the teacher was perched on the upper platform and the auditorium was arranged all around on the slope of the embankment. That's how Johanna came up with the idea to call these storks' meetings as “conferences". She had seen other storks' meetings in the meadow, but not so rigorously organized.

She remembered all this in the year he finished high school. At the time, as early as spring, she retired to her grandparents during all her free time because she had to learn for the final exam in high school. It was that the year when she met the stork family who brought bitter tears to his eyes.

"God, how beautiful they are!" Stork chicks sit quietly and fluffy in their nest only with their heads slightly raised and their eyes fixed on the horizon to welcome their mother and father. But the mother comes alone, with a heavy fluttering of her wings, and sits on the edge of the nest, looking sadly at the white fluffy balls with growing beaks.

Joanna looks at them tenderly. "Why would the mother be so sad?" She leaves the question unanswered, but the following weekend he finds that the mother-stork is still alone. Joanna watched the summer her struggle to raise and educate on her own kids. The girl noticed that the storks, mother, and kids, were losing weight. They all seemed as going sick. But the mother has never given up. On a summer Sunday when the heat was so relentless that people could not get out of the shade of the houses, Joanna saw in the stork's nest two wings spread wide over the nest. She went as close as she could to see what was happening. The mother stork was protecting her kids from the heat, with her wings even if she was sick and starved. The stork's back moved from time to time and its long neck seemed to hang helplessly from the nest. Joanna was horrified. “What will happen if she dies?" But this mother proved to be strong, protective, even if probably hungry.

No, she didn't die. It was terribly difficult for her alone to teach her kids to fly, but they even managed to leave in the fall. It was not at all sure that they had all come to their migration's destination, but the devotion of the poor mother succeeded to ensure at least the departure in front of wild wintertime.

Joanna has been amazed and enjoyed so much devotion, so much love.

 Later, the habit of watching how the animals take care of their kids became something that always gave Johanna's a genuine peace and joy. In Strasbourg, in front of the Council of Europe, she spent hours in the park watching the way the mother monkey knew how to put a gentle but firm stop to her monkey baby's fads and exaggerated desires.

One day, on the way to the mountains, she came across a flock of wild ducks. The mother duck was teaching the little ones to swim and find food in an eye of water in the middle of a swamp. Brown colored and fluffy, the little ducks watched their mother with holiness, even when, at a sign known only to them, the mother signaled danger and hid in the reeds for fear of Joanna's too curious observation. The woman kept on her face a big smile seeing the good behavior of the little ducks, but a kind of regret was also felt for not succeed to photo them.

For a piece of a second, Johanna is aware of the coldness of the floor under her pants and tries to put her scarf under her thighs. Instantly she falls back into the whirlwind of memories that were suddenly triggered and unstoppable. The big warm eyes of the baby are still watching her with interest.

Joanna is smiling with closed eyes hiding another memory.

She remembers the female-bear with the three kids that went down to the neighborhood of a mountain town to the houses of the people. One night in August a she-bear was on the hill with two of the baby-bears. The third one, more playful, rushed on the road fascinated by the lights of a taxi. The mother-bear came down from the hill, with unimaginable ease and flexibility, took the little naughty one with her mouth on the back of his neck, and put him on the sidewalk. The little one watched his mother climb back the wall that delimited the street and the hill, and, as he saw her upstairs, he started towards the taxi again. The driver had stopped to watch curiously what was happening. My mother came down again, this time apparently more decided to stop the danger. She grabbed the kid-bear in the back of the head, but this time she didn't put him on the sidewalk but pushed him up the hill. The brown fluffy ball has rolled a little on the hill, but harmlessly, and rubbed his nose under the attentive eyes of his brothers. These were seating on their tails with a kind of satisfaction in their eyes. When the adult bear saw all her three kids together, she signaled to leave for the forest that covered the top of the hill.

Mothers, mothers, mothers… Worries, responsibility, love, commitment. Almost synonymous concepts.

Now all these memories come to Joanna's mind.

Where are the little-bears, where are the kid-storks, where are the little ducks, all protected by their own mothers? They are, everywhere in the wild nature. They have been and will be.

 But where is the mother of this child, or the father? She or he is a human being. The humans seem to easily forget or, maybe worse, they are able to abandon their baby.

Johanna is taking the baby in her arms. She is looking at him amazed and tenderly. She caresses fondly the small cheeks. A smile seems to catch his eye on the little one's lips. Joanna pulls out her phone and calls to announce ...

"I found a very small child." He does it with a tight heart. While waiting for those entitled to act, a question mark emerges more and more clearly in Joanna's mind:

I'm wondering ...may I, or can I become his mother?

Joanna notices with a huge surprise that she banishes the possibility of a negative response. This possibility is pushed away, like pushing away the pain that tears his soul. A little palm tightened confidently around Joanna's index finger.  A warm hug, full of hope. Whose hope? Mine? Joanna is enveloped in astonishment.

July 27, 2020 00:07

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