My mother has never liked pet stores, she says that they depress her. She doesn't like the idea that all those innocent animals are bred in such terrible conditions and that they live the first few weeks of their lives in cages much too small for them, with very little human interaction. She is not an animal person, but she has compassion, so would just as soon skip the pet store all together.
As children, my brothers and I were too young to share this sentiment. It was a very special treat for us if our mom took us into a pet store because it almost never happened. When I was about three, there was one such occasion when my mom took us in to look at the puppies, and we were thrilled.
The picture I have in my mind's eye is definitely one of a small child's. I remember lots of white, everywhere I looked. White laminate flooring, white walls, white cages, people dressed in white. The store probably wasn't that pristine, but maybe to three year old Jonsi, it looked that way. My mom led us in to the store and pushed my little brother, who was just a baby in a stroller, up to the half wall separating us from the cages. My other brother was on my right side, and we stepped up to the glass as well. I remember being disappointed because I could barely see the puppies since they were so far away, and were separated from us by several windows. My older brother and I pressed our faces up against the glass, trying to get a better look.
All of a sudden, I heard a woman shouting something at us. She was dressed in white and standing next to a push cart that seemed miles away, down the long corridor. The cart contained cleaning supplies and spray bottles. I could barely make out her face, but she seemed accusatory and kept up a tirade of angry sounding words.
I didn't know what she was saying, but I knew it must have been something bad, because my mom got very angry. My mom told me years later that the woman was shouting at us to "get our filthy hands and faces off of the glass" because "she had just cleaned it." My mom said, "Excuse me? How dare you. They are just children, and they are only looking. You will NOT speak to me, or my children that way." She may have said more, but I can't recall.
What I do remember, quite clearly, was the feeling that someone had said something bad to us, and my mom made sure everyone knew that sort of treatment wasn't allowed. I remember marching out of that store, with my head held high, knowing that we had stopped that woman from treating us badly, and that my mom had our backs. I knew, without a doubt, that my mom would take care of us, that she would protect us, she would defend us to the end. I felt that I was a part of her bravery and that no one could hurt us. I learned many valuable lessons that day: That it is okay to say no, that one should champion the rights of those who are not able to protect themselves, that no one has the right to be cruel, nor should they get away with it, and that strength means being assertive and calm. My mom has shown me what it means to love unconditionally and defend those who need defending. I was very lucky to have gotten the mom I did. I have borrowed her strength in times of need, and she has willingly, and sometimes unknowingly given it.
In the battle that DH and I are fighting against NMIL, the one where we have to be the champions of our own rights, my mom has been a wonderful touch stone. And the most beautiful feeling is knowing that she feels as lucky to have us, as we are to have her.