“I’m scared.” The words came out laced with tears, but there was nothing Serena could do to stop them. Between the two slats of the Venetian blinds, she saw her niece and nephew playing. Only two hours had passed since she signed papers securing sole guardianship, and shame filled her heart as she voiced what she already knew. She turned to her grandmother, her voice only a whisper. “I’m not a mother. I don’t have a mother’s heart.”
Mamaw’s image was blurred by Serena’s tears; yet, Serena could feel the strong arms around her shoulders and could smell the powdery freshness that had always meant Mamaw. “Of course you’re scared, Baby. Who wouldn’t be?” Serena could hear the tears in her grandmother’s voice and knew the state of shock was wearing off as the grief settled in. They were gone, both Rose and Marcus. One teenage decision gone badly and the lives of her sister and brother-in-law were no more. A family with a gaping hole and two devastated children under the age of ten were the only wreckage that remained. And twenty eight year old Serena, clean and sober for only five years; Serena with a renewed faith but little confidence, had been given charge of two precious lives.
Serena looked up and found her grandmother’s chocolate colored eyes. Rosalie Smith smiled sadly and covered her granddaughter’s hand with her own. Serena knew that hand, and despite the road map of veins, Mamaw would always be young in Serena’s eyes; her changing appearance betrayed the energy of the woman who had taken in two children, abandoned by their own mother, twenty three years before. “What am I going to do, Mamaw?”
The gentle squeeze gave Serena hope and that hope was reinforced by the assurance in her grandmother’s voice. “You are going to love those children to the best of your God-given ability.”
Serena got up and began pacing back and forth, her voice was barely audible. “Love them? I barely know them, Mamaw. How do I….”
“You choose to do it.”
“Choose? Mamaw, love is something that you feel…”
A voice of sternness Serena had only heard a few times in her life flooded her ears. “Serena, don’t tell me about love. I know what it means. And it is a choice, pure and simple. God gives us the ability to love, but we have to decide to do it.” Rosalie got up with the swiftness of someone half her age, went to the bookshelves, and picked up the picture of her dead husband. She held the picture out to Serena. “I no more loved this man on the day I married him than I would have the President of the United States….”
“Mamaw, you adored Poppy.”
“That came much later. But at first, all I knew was my mama and daddy insisted I marry him. Plain and simple. I was obedient and did just that. Everyday brought challenges, but every day the good Lord gave me the strength to do right by Henry and eventually I loved him more than my own self. Love isn’t the flighty butterflies, no baby; it is knowing to your core that someone else is more important than you. It’s the same with children. No one tells you how to love them. You just eventually do.”
Serena sat back down at the table, and looked out the window again. A little girl and smaller boy lost in grief. So much energy, so much love. “So much hurt, Mamaw.”
“That’s right, sweetheart. Hurt, and that my dear is the very emotion you are familiar with. You have what it takes to love those babies. You’re tough and have a resolve made out of steel. Rose and Marcus knew that. That’s why they trusted you with their most precious possessions.” Mamaw paused as Serena laid her head in the folds of the worn housecoat. Serena closed her eyes as Rosalie stroked her hair. The softness had returned to her voice. “You won’t be a mama overnight. No one really is. But choice by choice, sacrifice by sacrifice, your mother’s heart, the one that God gave you will come shining through.”
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