"Read my book to me, Kaka." Fresh from a bath and smelling of baby lotion, Baby Boy has crawled into bed with Dogdog and his newly acquired companion, another stuffed dog he calls Snuggle Buddy. This has become a ritual at our house. While he and I sometimes alternate between One Fish, Two Fish or Happy Birthday Jesus, we always read his book as well.
Baby Boy knows he is adopted and is ok with that. He knows his new sister, Cutey Pie has a different Da from he and Baby Girl, and he is ok with that. He doesn't know any other mother than Nice Lady, and those of us that love the Family are ok with that. When he is a little older, Nice Lady and Da can tell Baby Boy all about his other Mama and how much she loved and wanted him. Baby Boy is only four. We have plenty of time...
So, I create a little diversion using silly conversation, as I flip past the first few pages until I reach the part where Baby Boy comes to live with the Family. "Stop Kaka," he laughs, "It's me! I'm here, I'm here!" He let's me read a few pages and then insists, "Let me read, Kaka". Naturally, he knows the story by heart. He points at Nanni-K and possessively calls her by name, "Look Kaka, there's my Nanni-K."I smile, cuddling a little closer as he continues."Yes baby, there's your Nanni-K," I reply. He likes the page where Sister Dear and Baby Girl are feeding him-it's a real awwwwww moment. He makes me laugh, giggling and pointing to his green blankey and his Dogdog, and especially the page where Cutey Pie and Baby Girl are playing dress up and he is wearing his Da's shoes. Baby Boy can make up a whole new storyline about the page where Ms. Pat takes he and Baby Girl to the playground.
Reaching the last page, the one with Nice Lady, Baby Girl, Cutey Pie and himself all wrapped up together in a big chair, he sighs and looks up at me. His little finger points at Nice Lady and says, "That's my Mama." "Yes baby," I say,"that's your Mama."
It just confirms what I've said all along- sometimes biology just isn't so important after all.
One of the things that I find hard to understand is how people can put so much emphasis on birth, biology and DNA. Love doesn't have any connection to these things at all. Love is just something that happens. Quite often you don't even realize it until one day you see that special person and know, for whatever reason, you just love them- alot.
As this project began, I started jotting down little thoughts about a Mama and what's important to a child. Whether the one you call Mama gave birth to you or you inherited her by marriage or adoption, or whether you just have a connection with a special lady and call her Mama, you are blessed. The Gift is a story about just that sort of blessing.
A Mama isn't just someone that gives birth to you.
She's someone that sits with you when you're sick, and doesn't mind.
She's the one who bakes cookies late into the night, when you forgot to tell her earlier.
She will clap louder than anyone at your piano recital.
She reads your favorite book to you over and over. And over.
She really listens to you when you need to talk and when you're scared she
makes you feel safe.
She teaches you to be polite and chew with your mouth closed.
She's the last person you see when she kisses you goodnight, and the first person
you want to see in the morning.
You know in your heart that she's your Mother, your Mom, your Mama.
She is your gift and you are hers. Sometimes biology just isn't so important after all.
Quizno’s is my usual spot for a quick lunch and since I eat the same thing every day, I don’t even have to order. I walk in; smile and they know what to do. However, I do have to fix my own drink at the self serve counter. So there I was, filling up my new biodegradable cup with their wonderful sweet tea. (Quizno’s just changed cup criteria and I hate it and have, in fact, filed a complaint with corporate. A cup that bio-degrades before I’m finished with my tea is just not acceptable… but that’s a topic for another story).
The big yellow and green container that dispenses the tea is on the end of the self serve counter and a table with stools backs right up to it. Being a daily patron, I‘ve had a chance to notice certain things - specifically how the tea will splatter anything within a two foot radius if you don’t hold your glass just right underneath the spout. Generally, priding myself on being the best Quizno Ambassador I can be, I lean over to whoever is sitting in the ‘hot seat’ and announce, “Careful or you’ll get splattered.” Sometimes the response is thankful; other days I get the deer in the headlight looks, but either way, I’ve done my good deed.
On this particular day I notice a young man, maybe thirteen or fourteen years old sitting in this spot. He wasn’t eating and had one of those small clear plastic cups filled with ice water. You know the kind - they literally scream “I couldn’t or didn’t order a full size drink”. The young man’s shoulders were slumped and he had his head down. He wore an oversized unadorned tee shirt and while his pants were of the popular baggy variety, I didn’t glimpse any hint of plaid boxers that the kids like to sport these days. As other customers went by he would raise his eyes slightly, as if to speak, but never did.
I walked my way through the line, was awarded my ready-to-fill biodegradable cup and made my way to the self serve counter. Before I even had a chance to give him the heads up about the splatter, he turns to me and in barely an audible whisper says, “Do you have any money? I need bus fare.”
All my ALERT senses went into overdrive. He’s in a gang, he wants money for drugs, he’ll see me with cash and rob me when I go to the car- you know the thoughts. I’m also thinking there’s a little Greyhound station just down the street from where we were. Geez, this kid is asking for big bucks.
“No, I’m sorry,” I say and look away. He thanked me and dropped his head, staring at his FREE water. Now this really bothered me. I mean really, REALLY bothered me. I filled my “I’m fortunate enough to be able to pay for mine” regular sized cup, applied the lid, grabbed a straw and went back to the counter to pickup my sandwich.
Spotting the manager at the counter, I lean over and nod toward the young man, asking, “Did he eat lunch here?”
“No” she replied, "Did he ask you for food?"
“No, I said, " but he did ask me for bus fare.” She proceeds to tell me this happens several times during the week and well, let’s face it, she can’t help everyone and she sure can't feed everyone for free. I continued to stand at the counter glancing over at the young man. The whole situation just got me, right in the pit of my stomach “Maybe he’s hungry,” I told her. “Let me buy him lunch.”
“No, she replied with a smile, “How 'bout I comp him a sandwich, …just for you.”
I smiled, thanked her and walked over to the young man. “Hey", I said softly, not wanting to embarrass him, “are you hungry?”
“Yes mam, I am” he responded quickly.
I asked, “Would you like some lunch?”
“Well, that nice lady over there is going to fix you a sandwich. What would you like?” I asked.
He glanced over at the counter where the manager was watching us, looked down and replied softly, “Anything will be ok.” I looked over my shoulder and nodded at the manager. She reciprocated the nod and smiled.
“Where do you need to go?” I asked him.
“Home...west Atlanta,” he replied quickly, “I rode the bus over here. I had a job interview,” he points down the street, “and I lost my ticket.” He puts his hand in his pocket and turns it inside out for me to see there was nothing there.
I’m thinking… ok, so we’re talking MARTA here, not Greyhound bus fare. This makes a huge difference. “Son, just exactly how much do you need to get home?” I asked.
“Two dollars,” he replies softly and looks down again. I open my wallet and spot three one dollar bills. Taking them out, I fold them over and lay the money on the table. “Look at me,son”, I say in my best Ms. Mothercraft voice, “Do you have a mama?”
“Yes,” he says.
“Is she at home waiting on you?” I ask.
Again, he replies with another “Yes”.
"Listen close now, ...if I give you this money you better not be buying drugs.”
“Oh, no mam,” he exclaims, “I don’t do no drugs, I’m a good kid.”
“Well, here’s the deal- if you weren’t a good kid before, you will be now. Got it? I don’t loan money to druggies or thugs.” For the first time that afternoon I saw a hint of a smile.
“Yes mam, I understand,” he replied.
“Now, here’s what I want you to do, " I continued, "When you get home, the first thing I want you to do is give your mama a big ole hug. Can you do that for me?” He nods his head. “And you tell her that the hug is from me, a mama just like she is. You tell her I’m passing it on. From now on she better be looking out for a kid in need because us mom’s have to stick together and take care of our kids. One day when she’s least expecting it, some young man will need her help, and I’m depending on her to follow through. Can you remember to tell her?”
He smiles and says, “Oh, yes' m, I can… and thank you.” I pat him on the shoulder and turn to leave but not before seeing him bite into the fattest Quizno sandwich I’ve ever seen.
Sometimes you just have to let your Ms. MOTHERCRAFT instinct override your DANGER Will Robinson instinct.
It’s not hard to understand- Put yourself in another’s place, They may be going through burdens That you have yet to face.
You may have been blessed with wisdom Or more courage to endure. You may be blessed with strength and wealth While they are weak and poor.
So never turn your ear away Or refuse to lend a hand, Put yourself in another’s place And you will understand. ~ Delores D’Amien
Bored to the point of frustration and absolutely refusing to do housework on such a beautiful afternoon, Hubby and I found ourselves sitting on the front steps. Basking in the warm Sunday afternoon sunshine, we watched cottoncandy clouds roll by and commented on the hole in the pinestraw and what sort of critter we might be up against. We discussed the hairline crack in the sidewalk and whether or not the bush, third from the left, would make it through another winter. We watched our neighbors come and go, throwing up our hand in a little wave and making that connection that neighbors do so well. Totally agenda-less, we just sat there and it was nice. I don't think folks 'sit a spell' much anymore. They're just too busy, I guess.
It wasn't so long ago, on a similar Sunday afternoon in October, that I found myself sitting on the front steps at a house down the street. I had spent alot of time going up and down these steps at the Family's house during the past weeks. My life changing adventure with the Family had just begun and in between all those items on my personal must do list, I was just trying to help out.
So there I was, sitting on the steps with this little 8month old baby boy, waiting for the dryer buzzer to signal to me that I could cross one more task off the list. Baby Boy liked outside but the October air was chilly. I would wrap him up from head to toe in his green blankey so that all you could see were his little eyes. We'd cuddle and sing Twinkle Twinkle and point to the twighlight sky. Sometimes he'd laugh and other times he'd just grab my finger and hold it. Either way, it didn't matter to me. It was our time, just he and I.
Sometimes, during the late afternoon, we'd sit on the steps at my house. Hubby and I live on the corner, just beyond the gated entrance and a real front row seat for the coming and going of my neighbors. Baby Boy and I would sit on the top step so he could see the gate as it opened. With one hand on his little shoulder and the other pointing toward the gate, I'd say, "Get ready! Here comes a neighbor!" Taking his que like a pro, Baby Boy would wave and yell "Hey Ney!" assuring each work weary resident received a parade-like welcome. Once he got the hang of it, Baby Boy took charge. "Get ready, Kaka, here comes a neighbor!" We've waved at the lawn care guys and the school bus. We've waved at the lady walking her dog down the sidewalk and a kid on a golfcart. If you're breathing and inside the gates- you must be a neighbor and that warrants a wave.
"Hey Neighbor" began almost four years ago and just shy of a few minor changes it's still a popular favorite at our house. While "Ney" has evolved into "Neighbor" and sitting on the top step is no longer required to see the gate open, we still find time to 'sit a spell' and wave with Baby Boy. Nothing beats a crisp, sunny afternoon enjoying The Gift God has given us.
as an author or illustrator. I just needed to be able to tell a precious little boy how much he was wanted and loved. What started out as a letter, turned into a labor of love and the result is a little story called The Gift. With the help of Meghan Branscomb I was able to see my story and illustrations brought to life with her unique application of color and finishing touches.
We've already started a new project. This will be a fun story. It's based on Baby Boy's adventures as he turns four. He continues to bless us all with his amazing kindness and charm, his sharp wit and the unbelievable ability to continue avoiding the terrible two's.