A Bushel and a Peck

Yesterday I was sitting in my son’s nursery, rocking and quietly singing. He had just finished a bottle, and my sweet, active little boy was winding down for his nap. He rarely lets me hold him. He’s always on the move and wanting to see what is around him. But on this day he was tired and he wanted to snuggle. He buried his head into the crook of my shoulder and gently patted my face as I sang.

I love you, a bushel and a peck, a bushel and a peck, a bushel and a peck. I love you, a bushel and a peck, a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck.

In that instant I was transported back to my childhood. To days when I’d sit in a lap and my eyes would get heavy as someone sang to me. My childhood babysitter, Mrs. Claudia, was like a mother to me. Some of the best memories of my childhood are of her and her family – my family. Playing cards on a Saturday night. Watching “stories” (Mrs. Claudia’s favorite was Days of our Lives). Baking zucchini bread. Making a huge breakfast on Saturday morning and being so full you wouldn’t eat until dinner that night.

Mrs. Claudia was much more than a babysitter to me. My mom took me to her house for the first time when I was 6 months old and from that moment on I’m told she thought of me just as much her baby as my mother’s. Her family was my family. I went on vacation with her. I went to family reunions. My mom tells me often that she once went on vacation without me and called my mom nightly, crying because she missed me.

These days, it seems like some people think that daycare is a bad word. There’s a lot of judgment out there for moms who have to put their children in childcare so they can work. I’ve been a working mama and a stay at home mom and I know all the guilt and sadness you feel at having to leave your child with someone else so you can work. You worry about the time you are away. You worry about the person who is taking care of your child and what kind of influence they have on your child.

Well, I’m here to tell you that I consider myself lucky to have had two mothers in my life. Mrs. Claudia wasn’t my babysitter; she was my second mother. Even when I was a teen and was old enough to stay at home on my own, I chose to go to her house. I spent weekends there. We went camping for a week each summer. When her daughter moved into her own apartment, I spent just as much time at her house as I did at my own.

Mrs. Claudia was diagnosed with cancer when I was 16 years old. She had treatment and went into remission, and later the cancer returned. She died when I was a freshman in college.

I think about her a lot now that I have kids. I wish she could have met them. I wish she could have seen me as a mother. Every time I cook a big breakfast for my kids – every time I make zucchini bread – every time I sing a special lullaby – I think of her and I know she is with me. She’s with me, and she always will be.

A Bushel and a Peck takes me back to her house. To her husband, Mr. Ocie, who used to take me for drives and sing to me. Her son, Kevin, who called me “little sister” and used to carry me around on his back. Angela, her daughter, who carted me around everywhere she went like the little sister I was to her. And Mrs. Claudia, the woman who taught me so much about being a mother and what it means to be a family – even if you didn’t share the same blood.

I love you too, Mrs. Claudia. A Bushel and a Peck.

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