85: My Eight Mothers

85: My Eight Mothers

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Amazing Mom

My Eight Mothers

No one who achieves success does so without the help of others. The wise and confident acknowledge this help with gratitude.

~Alfred North Whitehead

I stood in the greeting-card section, searching for Mother’s Day cards for my three daughters-in-law. Nothing expressed how much I loved them or how pleased I was at the way they were raising our grandchildren.

I thought of my own mothers. A lump in my throat told me to leave the card section. Unmovable, I stood. If my eight mothers were still living, which card would I send each one? Could cards even express all my love and gratitude?

Driving home, gratitude, sorrow, laughter, comfort, and pain all rushed through my memories. I began to compose love notes to my moms.


My mother who gave me life must have loved me, cradled me and laughed with me. I remember her taking care of my sister Sallie and me when we were sick. She read to us often. Mommy must have taught me things little girls need to know about being kind, quiet when necessary, and respectful toward adults. Most of all, she instilled a positive sense of security. Mommy died from polio when I was five years old so I don’t remember much.

Thank you, Mommy, for taking care of me as a baby, toddler and kindergartner. We must have had fun times. You didn’t know you were preparing me to be strong enough for my unusual life journey. I wish you could hold and play with my children and grandchildren. You would have loved them.

After Mommy died, Daddy took Sallie and me to live with his parents in Missouri. Grandmother, a gentle woman, enjoyed doing little-girl things with us. Her white hair with a blue rinse framed her beautiful, wrinkled face.

Because she knew we missed our mother, she taught us a prayer, “Father-Mother-God, loving me, guard me while I sleep. Guide my little feet up to thee.” She told me God loved me.

Dear Grandmother, I now understand how hard it was for you to care for Sallie and me. We were sad little girls who nevertheless needed discipline. Your faith in God kept you strong. Thank you, Grandmother, for teaching me that God loves me, the most important fact I ever learned.

When I was in third grade, Dad remarried. We moved to Kansas with my stepmother. Dad and Janice, my third mother, were busy with difficulties in their own lives and struggled to care for two little girls. Therefore, I learned from Janice how to do things for myself.

Dear Janice, Taking care of us wasn’t easy for you. But you tried. Through those tough times, you loved us. That’s what held us together those six months. Thank you for my precious baby sister, your daughter.

We couldn’t stay with Dad and Janice. Sallie went to live with our father’s younger uncle and I went to live in New Jersey with his older brother. For three years, I lived in a real family unit with two cousins about my age. That was when my aunt, my fourth mother, taught me the joys of nature. I remember hiking through woods, stooping to inspect moss near the foot of trees. On dark nights, we trudged through snow, studying stars.

She stood up for me when I was insecure. I cried, telling her no one had asked me to be a partner in gym class. When she informed school officials, the choose-your-partner system changed.

Dear Aunt Betty, How I thank you for three years with your family. I loved those cross-country car trips when we played games and sang silly songs. You never told me I squeak off-key. Thank you for sticking up for this friendless girl. Your daughter and I are still like sisters.

I’m thankful for each mother who carried me through my shaky girlhood. Above all, I loved my mother’s mother, Dee. Every summer, Sallie and I visited her in Illinois. One day, after Sallie had gone back to the uncle she lived with, Dee and I sat in her Oldsmobile. She asked, “Twink, would you like to live with me?” I jumped at the chance.

This skinny, timid adolescent moved in with her fifth mother. With Dee’s encouragement, I became more outgoing, made friends, and even got good grades. I was elected president of the junior-high student council.

I lived with this wonderful woman for seven years before she sent me to college. Her optimistic outlook on life and her loving care and discipline transformed me into a new person.

Dear Dee, Thank you for your positive outlook. You changed my life. Mostly, thank you for being you. I treasure memories of us chatting about anything and everything. What would have happened to me without you?

Aunt Jan, my sixth mom, was Dee’s best friend. She and her four children spent many afternoons at our house. Even though Dee and I lived down the street, we were part of her family. For seven Mother’s Days, I gave cards to both Dee and Aunt Jan.

When generation gaps caused problems, my sixth mom was there to talk us through misunderstandings.

Dear Aunt Jan, You truly were my other mother. I loved being part of your big family. I’m so glad you came to help when our third little boy was born. How could I have managed without your motherly care and concern?

Marriage gave me my wonderful mother-in-law, my seventh mom.

Thank you, Mom. I never thought of you as a mother-in-law. You’ve been my good friend as well as my mom. Thank you for coming to my rescue that time I had surgery when our three little guys were only one, two and four.

Every bride needs a mom to help her through uncharted waters. She turned out to be our precious landlady in Iowa, my eighth mother. She figured out I didn’t know how to cook or clean. She taught me how to be a wife. She was the mother I needed to encourage me when I discovered I was pregnant a few months before my husband entered the Air Force.

Oh ZellaLea, I’m so thankful for your openness and love. Because you and your husband were there for us, Denny and I made it through those two years and still have a powerful marriage filled with love.

My eight mothers each took on a specific mother role I desperately needed. They fit together like a braided rope, each being my mom for a specific time and need, and together becoming the mother everyone would want to have.

~Twink DeWitt

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