5: Every Age and Stage

5: Every Age and Stage

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Amazing Mom

Every Age and Stage

I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.

~G.K. Chesterton

Being born into a military family set the stage for me to have many mothers in my life. It would be a challenge to identify the one who had the greatest impact, because they were all perfect for me at the time they stepped forward to mother me.

My mother died when I was seven. One of my cherished memories is hearing her merrily singing popular Broadway tunes as they came on the car radio. Few things have brought me greater joy than belting out the lyrics to musicals with my own children.

My first stepmother happened to have been my older brother’s fifth-grade teacher the year my mother passed. While her stay in our lives was a mere six months, I vividly remember her hand clasping mine as we stood in line to see The Sound of Music. That memory impressed upon my young heart that simple acts of concern, care, and compassion can go a long way toward bringing hope and reassurance to a grieving soul.

My second stepmother entered our lives in a fashion that would have been comical if it hadn’t bordered on desperate. On the verge of deployment to Vietnam from his assigned base in the Caribbean, the obvious need for someone to watch his three children may have nudged my father into a hasty marriage to a recently divorced mother of four.

A backyard wedding was followed by a honeymoon cruise through the nearby islands. The seven children, from six to sixteen years old, began exploring our new life together. One of the most fascinating aspects of this arrangement was how nonchalant the involved adults appeared to be over the obvious language barrier. Our four new stepsiblings were native Spanish speakers, and the three of us, fairly new to the island and mostly isolated on the military base, spoke only English. Over the next few months, we somehow managed to come up with our own version of Spanglish and communicated fairly effectively over the next five years.

Our new stepmother impressed upon us the value of determination and hard work. She added to the family income through both her small tailoring shop (an impressively self-taught skill) and the beautician service she ran in our screened-in carport-turned-salon. In addition to the responsibilities of raising the seven children of a blended family and running those two businesses, she also kept an immaculate home. She managed all of this largely on her own while my father volunteered for three back-to-back deployments as he pursued his military career and the extra pay that helped to keep our motley crew afloat.

A final tour to Europe and my father’s retirement seemed to strain the union, and another marriage dissolved into divorce. Through this new set of circumstances, the love of another kind of mother came into my life—a foster mother.

Friends of mine were about to be stationed in the Pacific Northwest. While helping them clean, organize, and prepare for the arrival of the moving company (skills that often become second nature to military brats), my friend’s mother looked at me tearfully and said, “I’m going to miss you so much! Why don’t you come with us?”

Phone calls were made and meetings ensued, which included legal guardianship and money to cover travel and living expenses. And thus I came to experience the love of this new kind of mother. She may have had no biological or marital obligation to care for the child she was “fostering,” but she embraced mothering another soul simply because she had it in her heart to do so. What a special kind of blessing it is to be so loved!

Several years and another foster mother later, my college education was interrupted by my own marriage. Here I found the love of yet another kind of mother—a mother-in-law. My mother-in-law had seven children of her own. Her only son was my new husband, and she had six daughters ranging in age from twelve to twenty. In the midst of her own bustling life, she had the heart to welcome another daughter into her circle. Through her example, I learned we can always make room in our hearts to love someone new—even when our cup is full!

Almost four years of infertility revealed to me that a mother’s instinct can be powerful enough to propel a woman to overcome tremendous obstacles. When my firstborn child arrived after a challenging pregnancy, the kaleidoscope of love from all the mothers in my life seemed to arrange themselves into a beautiful pattern, illuminated by the dawn of my own motherhood. Early motherhood insecurities gave way to joy as our family grew over the years, through birth and adoption, to seven children of our own. Now I have experienced the joys and sorrows of being a natural mother, an adoptive mother, a mother-in-law, and more recently, a grandmother.

A friend of mine shared with me once that her mother had commented about me, “She is a natural-born mother. It comes to her like falling off a log.”

She obviously had no idea how the very thought of being a mother had caused me to break out into a cold sweat as a young woman. But the host of beautiful mothers who helped me navigate through a variety of situations and circumstances encouraged me along the way—as only mothers can.

I marvel at all the mothers who have touched my life. Those mentioned here, plus grandmothers, pastors’ wives, and nurturing friends, have all provided what I needed during the different stages of my life. I’ve been blessed beyond measure by each of them.

~Donna Lorrig

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