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  • Writer's pictureDebbie Salter Goodwin

My Most Important Mother's Day Gift

She walked into my world as a smile from God.

Her shy eyes and slightly bent-down face could not hide the sun that filled the room when she entered.

“This is Lisa,” her dad announced as if there could be anyone else in the room that fit that name.

I knew better than to push myself into any child’s space or world. My work with children had long taught me to wait for their invitation. But this was so different. She was the child of the man I was beginning to love. What if Lisa didn’t like me? What if I couldn’t . . . What if . . . the bottomless pit that never answers back.

I don’t remember our conversation. I’m sure I asked her all the dumb questions adults ask children they want to impress and never do. How old are you? What do you like to do?

I remember we went for a bicycle ride, she in the child seat secure behind her father, me on a single seat following the happy two-some. With Texas sun in our eyes and wind in our hair, they introduced me to their neighborhood . It was the first time I heard her giggle, a burst of soft, bright joy.

But the activity that won her heart was coloring. She chose her colors carefully and

made her marks while I reclaimed my child spirit of filling black lines with opaque hues. We talked. Something about coloring made it effortless and natural.

That was the beginning of a great love, a love so great it would burst my heart over and over, sometimes with pain and more often with joy.

I married them. That’s the way Lisa talked about it. We all got married. We put our lives on the line for each other. She brought our rings to us as we stood before the wedding altar and we used them to include her in a circle of unbroken love. We blended together in ways where sometimes we could not find the boundaries. We have loved and played and planned and hoped and cried and celebrated together to become one in three so many times over.

I remember one very special Mother’s Day during a very difficult time in Lisa’s adolescence. She was missing her mother, the one she lost too early and never got to know as well as she should have. It was part of her identity crisis in her journey of knowing who she was. I could support her but I knew I could not give her what she wanted. We both felt the loss.

Mark and I left to pick up food for a simple celebration. Lisa decided to set the table, a skill that was not her best. When we got back, the table was set, napkins folded in various “creative” ways and she found a candle to put in the center of the table. When I gushed over her beautiful table, she began to cry. Wondering what I had said, I snuggled close and put my arm around her and asked, “What’s the matter?”

I will never forget what she said:

I was thinking about it being Mother’s Day

and I was wishing I could do something for my mother.

And then I realized I could

because you are my mother.

There are no flowers, no jewelry, no spectacularly wrapped presents I will ever cherish

more than those words. As I have told her every year in some way, she is the only one who made me a mother: . her presence., her joy, her challenges, her acceptance.

This Mother’s Day it is still the gift I cherish the most.

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