Thursday, July 19, 2012

Introducing the Kittens

During my Peace Corps years I lived with a Costa Rican family that became as close to me as anyone in the world with whom I do not share DNA (Husband excepted, of course). They not only provided a bed and beans, they laughed at my first jokes in stumbling Spanish, nursed me through a vicious bout of the measles (really!), and kept me from destroying the friendly diplomatic relations our countries have shared for centuries. When my term was up, I left this family with tears and hugs and promises that I'd be back soon.

I was not back soon.

Twenty years went by between the time I got on the plane and when I walked back in the front door of the house where I'd spent so many wonderful hours drinking coffee and laughing with my darling Tica mama, Chena.  I wanted Husband and the Boys to experience this part of my life, but I also felt like a proud mother cat showing off her beautiful kittens for the first time. Chena baked a cake for Boy#1's in-country 15th birthday and exclaimed at how tall and blonde our children were.

I thought of that last Friday when Emily came to visit. Emily was our favorite babysitter when the boys were babies, a student in one of Husband's accounting classes who clearly had a gift for child care. Cheerful and quiet, she exuded a calm that settled our often chaotic home. The Boys loved to see her coming up the walk--I loved it even more. She read endless books, took walks, played with them in the yard, fed and bathed them, and let me leave the house for a few hours with total confidence in her competence.

We lost touch with Emily after she graduated from Small College, but through the miracle of Facebook we reconnected a few years ago. She's living in Idaho now with her husband and three daughters, and her vacation this year included a trip down memory lane to Small College. The darling girl who was our babysitter now has three darling girls of her own and she brought them back for us to meet.

During lunch we laughed and reminisced about those years in the late 1980s when E was part of the family.

"Your mom was the only one I really trusted with the Boys," I told her daughters. "She was the one who was there when Boy#2 fell and broke off his front two teeth, and she was taking care of Boy#3 when he had the bad reaction to his baby vaccinations."

Husband looked over at Emily and laughed. "You know, I'm beginning to wonder why we kept asking you back--you had some nasty experiences with our boys."

Emily, who is normally the most gentle of women, responded tartly.

"Maybe it's because you knew I absolutely loved your Boys."

That, right there, is why we loved her, then and now. It's impossible to not love someone who loves your children.

And in that moment I knew how Chena had felt when I brought Husband and the Boys to meet her. As we had known she would, Emily had become a lovely mother of delightful children of her own. My heart grew two sizes during Friday's lunch, as I saw that promise fulfilled. Emily and the girls left with hugs and promises that they'd be back soon.

These promises cannot always be kept, as my experience in Costa Rica proved, but my heart still is larger after that visit.

Emily, your kittens are beautiful.

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