Mothers Day came and went and, once again, I felt grateful that I am not a mother. Yes, you read that correctly. Don’t get me wrong, for there was a time that the reality of not having children felt like a tragedy. You see, I was a “mature bride” marrying a man who already had three healthy children so for us, reproduction did not seem reasonable from any perspective. For a while I mourned for lack of breeding, but as the years went by my mourning turned into joy. The joy of a child free life is not because I do not love children. On the contrary, I often prefer them to adults. What changed me was the string of little girls who paraded through my life leaving soft footprints. Those children made me feel like a little tiny bit of a mother. Had I been raising children of my own, I never would have had the time or inclination to get to know and love these little girls who unwittingly brought such delight and dignity to my world. Some of them have perfectly good mothers of their own, but the world being what it is, those mothers are not always available to them. Some have had loving mothers who passed away when their babes were very young. One has an exemplary mother who is available and attentive but the mother wants me to spend one-on-one time with her daughter whenever I can just because she wants her daughter to know and love me. That one especially touches my heart. Now that I do not work outside of my home, the young girls in my neighborhood parade through my house as though it is their own. I can predict, almost to the minute, when the doorbell will ring on any given school day. Those minutes generally find one of these fillies standing on my porch dangling a school backpack in one hand and waving through the glass on the door with the other.
“Hay-aye Miss Donna Gay! Do you need me to chop anything today? What’cha cooking today?”
Earlier this year, I taught this youngest one how to properly hold a chef’s knife for chopping celery, onion and peppers for gumbo or etouffee. So now she chops, on my counter, regularly. I know that after we have chopped, sautéed, and simmered, she will then want to go upstairs to try on my scarves in the mirror. Her parents are grateful to me and I to them. Sometimes I sneak a peek at her preening in the mirror and I chuckle. I also wonder, is this what a mother feels?
The eldest in this club of surrogates has sat next to me in our church choir since she was but a wee teen. Now a graceful young woman, she often whispers a gentle joke into my ear or squeezes my hand just before we sing. Recently she used my house for her formal bridal portrait and expressed to me that the setting was special, not because of its beauty, but because of all the memories she has gathered within its walls. True, since she was barely in school, we have baked Christmas cookies, turned pumpkins into Jack-o-Lanterns and dared each other to kiss the dog on the lips. The day of the shoot, I watched her float through my house in a wedding gown but I still saw her as the little child who rolled ginger snap balls and placed them on the cookie sheet, then licked her fingers in between each effort. A conundrum of sorts. Is that what a mother feels? Maybe that is a little drop of what a mother feels and I got to taste that.
The little neighborhood girls, ages ten to thirteen, who hold their weekly book club meetings at my dining room table were just yesterday, sipping tea with milk and sugar as we chatted about summer vacations. For almost two years they have met at my house each Monday for a tea party and book discussion. They are becoming a little more independent these days and our summer schedules are not lining up to complement our regular Monday schedule.
One of them finally blurted out, “Maybe we should just take the summer off.”
As reasonable as that sounded, it stung just a bit because I knew that it was the beginning of things to come. At their ages, school activities, summer camps, dances and life in general will, without a doubt, trump the fascination of a weekly tea party at my house. I am not sure I like that part. Under the same circumstance, was this what a mother would feel?
“Uh, Ok. Sure,” I said. “That makes sense. So, for the summer, no Monday Neighborhood Book Club. We will just pick it up in the fall, right? “
They all chimed in, “Right!”
Then the youngest one clarified the plan.
“No Monday Book Club. Instead, on Mondays, we can do a lemonade stand in your yard.”
“Sure!” I exclaimed. “But you all have to help me make the lemonade. From real lemons. No powdered stuff, ok? And maybe we can put some mint leaves in it to make it pretty, OK?”
All together, “OK.”
OK. So it is settled. Perfect. I will make lemonade.