You may have noticed my dedication: To my husband, who makes me a better person; to my mule, who makes me a better wife; to my mothers, and to my daughters. I have three daughters, and more mothers than that.
My beloved mother—Joan, the real one—worked harder than anyone should have to work to raise me and my half siblings. She was alone for much of my childhood, having been widowed by my brothers' father and divorced from my own by the time I was three. When my quarterlife crisis struck around the time of my third pregnancy, and one psychiatrist after another suggested Prozac for my discontent, Joan reminded me where to find my peace. She bought me my mule.
My mother and I have always been close. As a teen, I never rebelled, though I do recall a brief phase when she could provoke me to utter mortification by taking silly, large steps in the corridors of the mall. We always have been, and remain, close friends.
My mother-in-law, contrary to common patterns, is the other best woman of their generation. I love her dearly. Only Jane could have managed to raise a son of my husband's caliber, and if I hadn't wanted to marry him for himself I might have married him for his family. They are all of unparalled perfection. Jane is my go-to person when I need a little bit of New England practicality; Joan the one who keeps me dreaming. I need both.
My father, with whom I am also now very close, gave me a perfect stepmother. Leslie was a trusted family friend on my mom's side—aunt to my closest childhood friend—since long before my father met her, and when she and my dad fell in love sixteen-odd years ago it completed a circle. My friend became a cousin, her cousins became my brothers. There's more to the story—in these complicated cases, there always is—but the end result was wonderful. With Leslie, I feel at home. She works miracles with plants, and in her garden I am a student of the master.
My fourth mother is called Walrus. This stems from a misheard word: lawless. Her son, X, and I had a brief fling (we had broken up, in fact, by the time the pregnancy was revealed) and, of course, never married. I called her "Lawless Mother"—the anti mother-in-law—when she took me in, late in my pregnancy. At the time, X and I weren't speaking, but his parents made some effort to connect. She didn't have his blessing when she invited me into her life, but she did have a grandmotherly stake in my affairs. She found me living in a horsevan with a dog, a cat, and a pair of rats (I'd had trouble finding a pet-friendly apartment) and she convinced me to come home to her tidy abode. Lawless mother—walrus mother—saw me through my transition from childhood to motherhood. I was twenty, and I lived in her guest bedroom for seven months. My dog, cat, and rats came too, which speaks to the tolerance in her character.
. . . to be continued . . .