It was probably around this time of year in 1969 that my mom was offered a baby. A teenage girl was due to deliver in a few months, and the baby needed a home. Dr. MacInnes, physician to both families, acted as the go-between. Mom spoke to her husband about it, and they agreed to take me. I was the first grandchild in a large, affectionate, slightly crazy extended family, and my welcome couldn’t have been warmer.
Two years later, I went from only child to youngest of five when Mom married a man with four kids ranging in age from seven to twelve. Mom didn’t miss a beat. She fed us a lot of tuna-fish sandwiches (“What does she think we are, cats?” my oldest brother asked indignantly), quelled us with her famous raised-eyebrow look when necessary, guarded us like a lioness, and managed the demands of work and family with an energy and efficiency I have never been able to duplicate.
One of my earliest clear memories is of the day I was to be adopted by my then-stepfather. I was three years old. That morning I was taken to nursery school wearing a special dress—I remember the color and print—and told that I’d be picked up later for the court proceedings. But a sad accident befell me on the playground. It had rained recently, and I found myself in a patch of grassless muddy ground. For some reason I couldn’t seem to find my way out. The harder I tried to get out, the more mired down I became. Soon my white sandals were caked with gummy Oklahoma clay.
A worker found me, fetched me out, and gave me a scolding. Didn’t I know I was getting adopted today? My parents wanted me to look nice. What would they say when they saw what a mess I’d made of myself?
I was a timid child, and this rebuke made me cry. But when my mom came to pick me up, she didn’t scold me at all. She spoke kindly to me, cleaned me off, and didn’t seem to think the mud was a big deal at all. This memory is so indelible in my mind that I remember absolutely nothing about the adoption ceremony itself, though they tell me it took place and I believe them.
How inexpressibly comforting it is to look into the face of someone from whom you expect reproach, and find love and acceptance instead. My mom gave me my first picture of grace that day, and it’s one I’ve never forgotten.
He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. I love you.