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When a Stranger Walks in and Calls You Mom

Monday, April 26, 2010

Yesterday my middle daughter turned 28. I say she’s my middle daughter even though she and my oldest daughter are only eight days apart.

I first met Michelle when she was about 14. To put it in its most flattering form, I wasn’t too sure about the stranger that walked into my house. “Hi Mom!” she almost yelled. Her voice was big and her smile was bigger, although obligatory. Karli and "Miche(one L)e" had become good friends soon after we selfishly ripped Karli away from her friends, her school and moved her from Washington to Oregon when she was 14. Unfortunately it wasn’t the first time that we had uprooted our kids with no thought of what it would do to them.

Karli was angry, hurt and lonely. When she said she was bringing a friend home I was excited. This was the first time I had met the “one L’d Michele”. The minute they walked through that door my gut told me it wasn’t good. Together these girls were going to be bad news.

Michele was loud and wild, outspoken and didn’t care. Karli was more subdued and alone. Something told me that we were in for a ride, a nice long roller coaster ride. I even went as far as to forbid Karli to see Michele. Ok, lonely teenagers and the word “forbid” are like oil and water. The girls became fast friends. They were inseparable and spent much of their time cutting class in favor of the local Denny’s to sip coffee and smoke cigarettes.

Soon it became evident that Karli and Michele weren’t going to part ways. Michele has a wonderful dad that brought her up as a single parent. As Michele will tell you herself, she knew just how to work things, especially with a quivering chin. Michele’s bio-mom had been out of her life for years. So Greg was on his own bringing up this head-strong, wild filly.

Over time things calmed down. Michele was at the house often and we got to know her. Her loud, wild ways were hiding insecurities and fears of again being abandoned. She became closer to our family. She was there during the time Karli was being stalked, and eventually raped, by one of our employees. Michele was there for the trial and for the birth of the grandson that followed.

Soon after Karli married the man I’ll only refer to as the “druggie that infected our Isaiah”. Michele was there. Five months later Michele found herself in a less than perfect situation. She was in a bad relationship and pregnant with a baby girl. She soon left “him” and was on her own and scared. Michele asked us to be the baby’s grandparents. She asked us to be there when our precious baby granddaughter, Alexis ( CoCo is the nickname I gave her), was born.

It was when she was pregnant with CoCo that she mentioned she had taken one “L” out of her name when she was in that “I don’t give a flying EFF what you think” mode. I asked how she would feel if Alexis began spelling her name as “Alexys” or any of the myriad of modern spellings. Her attitude changed, she saw how she had hurt her Dad by changing the name that he had painstakingly chosen for his only daughter. She saw things in different light. Instantly she went back to Miche "LL"e.

I slowly began to understand that Michelle’s wild ways and rebellion were the effect of the sporadic relationship she had with “that other woman”. These days I can’t even bring myself to call her “Michelle’s mom”, “bio-mom”, or even call her by name. Michelle is mine. She’s my daughter and I will not give her back.

I’ve seen my daughter grow from this completely uncontrollable wild child into a wonderful wife and fabulous mother of three of our precious grandkids. She’s started her own business, Shellibean , and custom makes aprons. She’s no longer that “one L’ed” Michele that walked through our door so long ago.

She and Karli are no longer friends. They are sisters. Sometimes we don’t realize what we want, what we need, until it arrives. And sometimes what we need arrives in the most terrifying of packages. Then there are times we need to be open to the storms that blow into our lives. We need to realize that some storms bring rainbows. At the end of some rainbows are treasures that could have never been imagined.

Michelle is my baby now. When she's around me and her chin begins to quiver and her eyes begin to fill I tell her “cut that out, it won’t work here!”

My girls and me


Classic NYer April 28, 2010 at 11:38 AM  

That's the sweetest thing I've ever heard. <3 <3 Michelle kind of reminds me of my oldest friend (meaning the one I've known longest) except that we met when we were more like four, not fourteen.

Teri April 28, 2010 at 12:43 PM  

Oh thanks! The whole thing is amazing to me. Both girls have changed so much in the last 14 years.
How awesome to have a friend since you were four! That just doesn't seem to happen much any more. Yea for you!

ShelliBean April 29, 2010 at 11:48 PM  

It's the sweetest thing I've ever heard too. I love you, Mommy. :)

Pop Pop May 5, 2010 at 6:34 PM  

It is for this reason, and many more like it, that I adore your entire family! Even though I have never met one single member of your family, I can tell the love and friendship shared among all of you. I envy you the closeness of your family, wishing it had been like that in my home. Thankfully, my children have had the love, kindness, and sharing that was lacking when I was young, and have all turned into amazing adults. Teri, you and Jeff have given of yourselves in a way that is to be admired, and emulated. Each of your children also should be admired. Having so many upheavals in their lives, and growing into such a large and loving family is a wonderful thing for all

Teri May 5, 2010 at 9:23 PM  

oh Kevin, thank you! It's been a crazy life, as you know, but it's also been pretty rewarding!

Candace May 17, 2011 at 10:45 PM  

i love your capacity to love. i hope that I am as great a mom as you.

Maasiyat June 15, 2011 at 4:24 PM  

The more I read (stalk) your blog the more I realize what an amazingly beautiful human being you are and it gives me hope to know there are people like you out there.

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