Supermom to the rescue

Supermom To The Rescue

Sometimes a t-shirt is the best superhero costume of all

Xandra Castleton had taken her daughter to a doctor’s appointment and then dropped her off at school one day last spring and was driving home through South Berkeley when she saw a car accident not far ahead of her. “I just saw a car go into the air sideways and then come back down, and everything stopped,” she recalls.

When she reached the site of the accident, Castleton spotted the other car that had been involved. “There was a very young woman with two little kids, a baby and a toddler, and she had pulled over and was struggling to get them out of the car. I just pulled over and asked her if she needed help,” she said.

“It was one of those situations where nobody seemed terribly hurt but they were scared,” Castleton told Good Turns recently. The people in the car that had momentarily been airborne were also angry. “They really rushed at this young woman, they were yelling at her. Other people were coming and saying it wasn’t her fault, the other car had a stop sign.”

Castleton felt bad for the young woman—who, she realized, was so young that she wasn’t likely to be the mother of the two small children. In fact, it turned out she was a babysitter. And it was her first day on the job.

“It’s really seared into my memory, the people who were kind. Those are heightened times, so you remember them.”

“So I just offered to help with the kids,” Castleton said. “I held the toddler for what ended up being about an hour, while the baby stayed in the stroller. It was sweet because he really trusted me. I taught him how to do a three, because he was trying to tell all the police officers and emergency people how old he was. They kept coming up and asking me, what’s your relationship, what’s your involvement? I kept saying, well, nothing, I’m just a bystander, I’m just helping.”

It wasn’t until the excitement had wound down and Castleton started to feel like she could leave that she realized what she had pulled on that morning in her rush to get her daughter out the door. “She had given me this t-shirt that said in huge letters, I’m a mom, what’s your superpower?” Castleton said. “She got it at Target.”

The t-shirt—which on that day constituted a kind of superhero costume—might have accounted for the fact that people at the scene of the accident “just seemed to kind of trust me, like I was somehow involved,” Castleton said. Or it may have been the fact that Castleton does make a habit of going out of her way to help, especially people with small kids.

“I don’t know if I do this kind of thing often,” Castleton told Good Turns. “Well, actually, I do.”

“My daughter, when we’re traveling together, she will point people out to me, and I always notice women with little kids and strollers and babies. And I do like to help, especially on planes and buses and things. It makes me feel great. And of course if I get to hold a baby or a little toddler in the bargain that’s great for me, because I don’t have one anymore and I love the little ones.”

“I traveled once or twice a year by myself with my daughter to visit my parents in Brazil,” Castleton said. “I still do, but it’s not a big deal now. It was. It was usually three or four flights. It was really, really hard, and it’s really seared into my memory, the people who were kind. Those times when you just feel like I don’t know how I’m going to do this, and everyone’s just lining up behind you and another flight’s gotten canceled, and it’s two in the morning and they’re telling you you have to take all this stuff and your kids and go to a hotel. Those are heightened times, so you remember them.”

The babysitter will no doubt remember her heightened time by the roadside in Berkeley, and the supermom who helped her. “She was an absolute mess,” Castleton said. “I felt kind of maternal toward her, she was maybe 19 or 20. But it was no big deal as far as taking an hour, maybe an hour and a half, out of my day to help. It was just funny when I realized that everybody kind of said, Okay, you’re the one in charge of the kids.”

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