Joy in the Moment
Previous post

“Special Forever Memories”

“Special Forever Memories”

reynolds-sunflower

In the summer of my eighth grade, I moved with my adoptive mother and stepfather to a beautiful, quaint community that, in recent times, had been seriously marred by escalating drug abuse. 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. As a teenager, I couldn’t put into words the feelings of abandonment I was left with by the many choices my parents made. I often felt as though they didn’t want to be bothered with the challenges of raising children.

With fondness, I still remember the first time I met the Reynolds family. During my freshman year of high school, I went to live in the home of this special family. What loving human beings who each welcomed me, a total stranger, into their lives and have cared about me ever since. By wonderful example, I learned the true definition of what it means to encourage, believe, trust, and love one another unconditionally.

One morning, l caught a glimpse through the window of 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 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. The loss of such a sentimental gift seems even greater now; for over five years, Mrs. Reynolds has been gradually declining from symptoms of Dementia/Alzheimer’s. Many times I have found myself staring at her photograph and longing to talk with her once more, but, now she doesn’t even know who I am.

Mrs. Reynolds has 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.”

This 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, that there was always an angel waiting in the wings–“my mother of affection.”

(Visited 6 times, 6 visits today)
Written by

11 Comments
  • Lindy Abbott says:

    what a beautiful story. I hope the grandmother type counselor my son met today can be that kind of person in his life. He needs her. I loved stainglass and flowers. Your husband was quite thoughtful with this gift.
    Lindy

  • Tammy says:

    What a wonderful post. It’s funny, the things that end up meaning the most to us. For my 18th birthday, my friend Wanja (her name is Wanda and as a teenager, she went thru a spell of going by WanJ, but to me she’ll always be Wanja) wrote me a poem. I hauled that poem EVERYWHERE, through more moves than I can hope to count. Sadly, like your sunflower, my poem finally fell apart. I miss it more than I can say. Although, I’m happy to say, I’m still in touch with Wanja…not as often as I’d like, she’s not the computer/email geek I am….but her daughter is, and I manage to keep up through her, in between phone calls. 🙂

  • Lynn Mosher says:

    This was a wonderful post! What a precious person to have in your life. And what a special gift from your hubby. I know your heart melted when you saw it. I wish you many more mothers of affection, even if they turn out to be friends. Blessings…

  • What a beautiful and loving tribute to a woman who filled the holes left behind by your birthmother and adoptive mother. What a wonderful thing for your husband to do, to memorialize her!

  • That was a beautiful remembrance in words. Thank you for sharing such a special moment in time and influence in your life.

  • This is a beautifully written story. Really grabbed my heart and I just HAD to read the entire thing, busy as I am. Wonderful! You are some writer, friend. Glad to see you putting words of life down for others to grow by.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • Helen says:

    So touching and affective. I loved the way you used the descriptive words not just to set the stage but also to set the stage for your own feelings. It is amazing how God always reaches out to us even when we think it is over. He always creates grace within the saddest moments of our lives.

  • Julianne says:

    You are an amazing writer! I can’t wait to get to know you better and read more!

    Julianne 🙂

  • Rilla says:

    JoAnne,
    in our message exchange, I hadn’t realized that the picture was on construction paper! Grandmother taught me her technique in working with pastels and construction paper when I was a little girl. I must have made a hundred pictures using her special pastels, smearing them with my fingers and painting over them with nothing more than water. Woah, this story really takes me back, I haven’t thought about these paintings in a decade or so! Even though our paintings were far from magical, she always matted and framed them anyway. Until she moved into the place she has now, she still had our construction paper paintings hung on her walls from all her grandchildren. I can almost picture what your special sunflower painting would have looked like. Sweet story, thanks for bringing me these memories too!

  • What love you have been surrounded by, not only your beloved Mrs Reynolds, but also your sweet, sweet husband.

    That Mrs Reynolds — truly, an angel.

  • I’m coming back a few years later to again admire your husband’s talents and thoughtfulness, and express gratitude that you had a woman such as Mrs Reynolds in your life.

    xoxo

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. So sad, what a terrible experience. and I know it was only one of many for you. Love you friend!!!
  2. This fills me with sadness: “No child should have to continually try to make a parent love them.” What a tragedy that your mother was not able to accept love from you. My guess is that deep down, she didn’t feel lovable, and she had to cover that shameful fact up with a bunch of br…
  3. It’s insane that these findings were made but nothing was done about it. All these years later, you are still waiting for the wrongs to be righted.
  4. I love you❤
  5. I hope you are able to find more on the first chapters of your life. How twisty things became when people had to hide things…ugh. Sad.