She started coming around the house when she was an itty-bitty thing, knee-high to a water-bug or thereabouts. She’d come to play dollies with the girls in the “museum” room. That’s what everyone called the formal living room back in the day because nobody ever really used the room. When they grew tired of dressing dollies, she and the girls would explore the backyard, or sled the hill by her house. In other words, she’s been a part of our family nearly as long as her own family. She even calls me “Mama.”
She moved off for awhile, finished high school in a town back where the arches rise up over the river. She didn’t have a choice in the matter given her daddy had to go where the job sent him. But soon as she got big enough to make her own choices about where to live and work, she came back West. She fell in love and fell out of love with a few different fellows. She got herself a good job, bought herself a fine home in a neighborhood full of fine homes. She did all the things homeowners do to improve their homes – planted gardens, put fresh siding on the house, fixed up the deck real nice so she could enjoy those lovely summer evenings.
She found herself a church home and made herself some new friends. She took a mission trip to Africa and shocked all of us who knew her well. How could a girl who desired order and cleanliness find it within herself to live with the chaos that is almost always part and parcel of any mission trip? But she loved it so much she turned around and did it again.
She amazed us.
Then a few months ago I got a call. Or a text. I can’t remember which now. Mama, she said, I’m going to sign up to be a foster mom.
Wow! Honey, that’s great! So proud of you!
I figured she would take in a third-grader, maybe a sixth-grader. One child, not too demanding, try out her own parenting and nurturing skills in shallow waters. I knew she was capable – she’s never failed at anything she put her mind to. And if there is anything children in foster care need, it’s a reliable person in their lives. She is as dependable as a Sunday sunrise. I knew whatever child got placed in Her care would be one very lucky child.
Only it wasn’t one.
It was two.
A girl and a boy.
Still in diapers.
I stopped by the house the other day to visit with Her. The kids had just woken from a nap. I sat on the floor and worked on a puzzle with the oldest child, while She held the younger one in her lap and loved on the baby.
They are happy, these kids, in Her care. I could see that they felt safe in the home she provided. That sense of security was reflected in the smiles they offered, in the way they crawled into Her lap and reached for Her.
As she sat there cross-legged on the carpet among brightly-colored blocks and a creatures of the sea puzzle, I was overwhelmed by Her courage and Her heart.
She should be the one making the headline news. Instead, she goes quietly about working on being a better person and doing the best She can to make the world a kinder place for someone else’s children.
In 2015, over 670,000 children were in the nation’s foster care system. Yet, all too often the only time we read about foster parents is when they have done something horrendous. But the young woman who occasionally still calls me “Mama” is a reminder that there are plenty of people making daily sacrifices to care for other people’s children. Foster parents like Her give of their time, their homes, their privacy, their monies, and their hearts for no other reason than to cherish a child in need of cherishing.
And as Her sometimes “Mama” I could not be more proud of the woman She has become. I hope you don’t mind me bragging a bit – I just had to tell somebody how great the world can be because of women like Her.
Karen Spears Zacharias is author of BURDY and the forthcoming CHRISTIAN BEND (Mercer University Press).