In the summer of my eighth grade, I moved with my adoptive mother and stepfather to a beautiful, quaint community that had been seriously marred by escalating drug abuse at that time. Only a few weeks into the school year, the principal had been assaulted more than once by troubled students. It was the last straw for my parents when he had to be hospitalized for his injuries. A drastic remedy for a difficult predicament – my adoptive mother searched for a place for me to live back in our hometown, over 420 miles away.
With fondness, I still remember the first time I met the Reynolds family. I lived in the home of this special family for the rest of my freshman year of high school. What loving human beings who each welcomed me, a total stranger, into their lives and cared about for many years. By wonderful example, I learned the true definition of what it truly means to encourage, care, trust, and love one another unconditionally.
One morning, I caught a glimpse through the window of my “mother of affection,” Mrs. Reynolds kneeling in her backyard. Deep in concentration with a paintbrush in her hand, I can still picture her capturing God’s perfection…a radiant sunflower reaching towards the heavens soaking up the morning sun. She painted the loveliest pictures that hung in galleries, as well as in her home.
As a going-away present at the end of the school year, my “mother of affection” asked, “What painting of mine would you like to take home as a gift from me?” She laughed when I pointed to her drawing of the sunflower. I could have had any of her fancy, framed pieces on the wall, but it was the simple things in life that have always meant the most to me. I chose the beautiful sunflower painting.
It might have seemed like such a small gift, but for me, it was a priceless treasure. For years, I held on dearly to the pastel drawing. I would gently roll up the gradually disintegrating piece of artwork and take it along with me to each new journey in my life. It was one of those “belongings” that never traveled to its next destination without being further away from me than the front seat of my car. For me, it was just a small token of love that represented more than I could ever possibly put into words.
After years of thumb-tacking the four corners of my coveted construction paper painting, regretfully, I had to part with my sunflower.
Mrs. Reynolds made a profound impact on my life. She always took the time to listen not only to my joys but to cry with me through the sad, disappointing moments as well. Whenever I felt unsure of God’s plan, I can still hear her reassuring words, “You know I will always be there if you need me.”
One Christmas, I carefully opened the most thoughtful present – a beautiful, stained-glass sunflower skillfully handmade by my loving husband. Also, creatively placed inside the shadow box was a precious photograph of my Mrs. Reynolds, a woman who will have a special place in my heart forever. She has shown me that even if I was short-changed on the deep love from my birth mother and my adoptive mother too, there was always an angel waiting in the wings… my “mother of affection.”