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The Envelope, Please

It was with fear and trepidation, along with joy and elation, that I married a widower with five children, aging from 15 to 24 four of them boys in December of 2000. I am not yet finished with my negotiations between my stepchildren and my own son for royalties in sharing stories in which they are featured. This involves complicated formulas involving compensation for the potential embarrassment factor (subtracted by an amount to compensate me for pain and suffering when I look at their bedrooms), invasion of privacy, and quite possibly defamation of character. Our lawyers are still negotiating. So I present the following articles, taking a cue from Dear Abby, ? who of course, is named Pauline, and that ?s why everyone in her column has similar names. ? I ?ve decided to go with the ever-popular scriptural names to identify my son and stepchildren and take my chances on the resulting lawsuits, since my kids don ?t read my stuff anyway.

I don ?t know how it turned out in the rotation of youth talks that my stepson Zedekiah ? got the assignment to speak on Mother ?s Day three years in a row, especially after having lost his mother. I sat in the congregation that first Mother ?s Day as a relatively new stepmother, aware that his talk would primarily be about his mother and expecting nothing more than my honorable mention ? at the end. He gave a nice tribute to his mother, talked about how much he missed her, and then he went on to thank others who had been there for him since she had died. I ?m thankful to my Seminary teacher and to my school teachers who took extra interest in me. I ?m thankful for all the Relief Society ladies who brought food over and helped us clean the house. I ?m thankful to the mothers of my friends who took me places and listened to me and helped me. I ?m thankful for my sister, who took care of us, and for my grandmother, who came and stayed with us when Mom was sick. I ?m thankful for my dad, who did the best he could to be a good mother. ?

Here it comes. Of course he would save me for last. But it didn ?t come. His dad was the last person he thanked, and with that he ended his talk with an admonition to be grateful for mothers of all sorts. Tears sprung to my eyes, but I tried to hide them, painfully aware that I was probably not the only one who had noticed the sin of omission. ? Another stepson Abinadi ? put his arm around my shoulder in comfort. As Zed stumbled back into the pew and over my feet, I saw the light go on as he did a big mental whoops. ?

He slipped in beside me, and whispered, I didn ?t mean to leave you out. ?

Having had a few moments to prepare for his realization, I whispered back, I know you just didn ?t want to run the meeting into overtime talking about how wonderful I am. ? I knew it was not on purpose that he left me out of his talk, still I could not help but wonder why I hadn ?t registered on the Mom-o-Meter. Hadn ?t I sat endlessly matching up his socks, washing his grungy football clothes, keeping the house from looking like a bachelor pad? Didn ?t I feed him and drive him places? Didn ?t I count?

Of course, I found out that year how many new friends I had in the ward, as Zed claims he was mobbed by angry Relief Society sisters after the meeting, reminding him what a wonderful stepmother he had. I let it go (as much as any woman ever does), and we carried on.

The next year Zed was asked again to speak on Mother ?s Day. He addressed his comments to the youth, and he gave a great talk, especially since I saw him preparing it during the opening song. He talked to them about not taking their mothers for granted, and he listed off a lot of the things that mothers do that kids forget about or don ?t even notice. He told them that one day your mother might be gone and then you might realize that you never really appreciated her and the chance to thank her for all she had done for you would be gone. I thought about how hard it must be to lose your mother as a teen-ager when you were in the selfish years, missing out on the chance to ever approach her as a young father and tell her you just realized all the sacrifices mothers make for their children. At the end, he mentioned that he also appreciated his stepmother for all the things she did for him. It was all I needed, and I felt good.

When he was asked to speak in church on Mother ?s Day for the third year in a row, we discussed the conspiracy theory between the bishops, old and new. Then we contemplated that there must be exactly the same number of youth in the ward as weeks for speakers so that his name always came up on the same week every year. Even though he explained that he had spoken on Mother ?s Day for the past two years, the assignment held. He wrote this talk down. I found the paper later, and I saved it. Last year I talked to the youth about not taking their mothers for granted, but I realize what I hypocrite I was being, because I always take my stepmother for granted. ? He went on to list the things I do, and he had even crossed out his complaint about my not valuing his video game time. Instead of a line at the end, he talked about me for the whole talk, and I felt loved and appreciated and realized we were making progress.

To all the moms out there, wondering if you will ever be appreciated, I wish I could give an unequivocal Yes ? as an answer. I once replaced the visit teaching message to one of the ladies I visited with a letter I had sent to my mother. For some reason, my mother had sent it back to me, and I had immediately thought of this sister, one of my heroes. She had adopted two pre-teen girls who were giving her a run for her money. So I sat with her, and I read her the letter of gratitude I had written to my mother when I was in college, and I told her that someday she would get a letter like that from her daughters once they had realized all she had done for them. I fear now that I lied, that she will never get that letter, as the older her daughters have grown, the greater the trials have become. She hangs in with them and finds her strength in the gospel, something that was a roundabout gift from her daughters, since she endeavored to take them to their church ? after the adoption. Now it is hers more than theirs, and her sacrifices continue to add up with little thanks on the other side of the ledger. Like me, though, she has a ward full of ladies who see what she does and honor her for her efforts. Ultimately, we mother out of love, not out of hopes for a reward or thanks. Still, a little appreciation goes a long way. So write your mother the letter. ? She ?ll probably carry it around in her purse like I do with a yellow piece of notebook paper with a line crossed through, because, after all, it ?s true. I ?m just not that into the video games.

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