THE STORY OF YOUR LIFE | an inspirational journey | short motivational video

New Beginnings

illustration of someone painting a room yellow
Brian Cronin
My youngest daughter, Stoli, has asked me to help her pick out paint colors for her first house. It's a small fixer-upper. The location is what makes it special—it's next door. I could hit it with a snowball from my porch.
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Stoli wants to know what I think about spring garden colors—bright yellow, green, even lavender. I prefer earthy fall tones. But I don't say that. Instead, I say it's her house to decorate any way she wants to, and since she's always liked yellow, maybe that would be a good choice for the baby's room.

My daughter is pregnant, and she's not married, and she's just 21. There are several words in that sentence I thought I'd never say. But I have learned a few things on this adventure called motherhood. I certainly didn't think that after Stoli announced in July that she was having a baby and quitting college, all would be so well now. I also had no idea when we acquired the house next door that it would be her home.

We had bought the crumbling 30-year-old former summer cottage for the price of the land in late June intending to either rent it, or maybe even tear it down and expand our vegetable garden.

Two weeks later Stoli announced the surprise pregnancy.

Actually, she told her siblings and her father, who all agreed that he would break the news to me, gently and privately.

I guess no one wanted to be there when the top of my head blew off.

I have spent a lifetime encouraging my children to do their homework. I have also made sure that they learned Sunday school values and the biology of human reproduction. In other words, a child of mine was not supposed to get pregnant before she was married, and not supposed to be married until she had graduated from college.

My brain did not explode, but my heart jerked up and down. This was not what I'd planned for her. I wanted her life to be easier.

My husband said, "She's happy."

He noted that she is just a year younger than I was when we got married. Her boyfriend is a good, hardworking kid who is a commercial fisherman in our tiny Alaska town. My husband went on to say they could live in the place next door until they got on their feet.

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When I sputtered that our plans had been ruined, he said, "What other plans do we have? I don't know about you, but I can think of nothing better than having a grandchild running across the yard to visit us."

I stopped pacing across our porch. We already have one granddaughter, Caroline, 2, who lives nearby. I am surprised by how much I adore that child and even more pleased at how attached my husband is to her. I hadn't expected we'd love her so fiercely.

My husband said, "You want to know what would worry me more than an unwed pregnant daughter? If she moved to the East Coast. What would we do if she were all the way out there? Even if they were married, that would be terrible."

All I heard was married. My mood lifted. I said that Stoli and her boyfriend could live in our new-old house only if they were married. We would have a small family wedding in our living room after Christmas. It would be lovely.

But pinning down a date proved elusive. When I asked Stoli for about the tenth time, her eyes filled and she said, "We have a lot going on right now." She looked just like she did when she was 8 years old. The same silent tears rolled down her cheeks.

Of course, marriage is not the answer to everyone's happiness, even if mine has been for me. I read the news. I know that. But what's a good mother to do?

"Nothing," my husband-turned-philosopher said. "We're doing enough working on the house. Stop trying to fix something that isn't broken. It's not like she's in the hospital with a terminal illness. It's a baby. They'll figure it out."

How could I have been so stupid? No doubt our daughter is scared. Having a baby is huge. She's so young. This was not her plan, but it's not the end of the world; it's the beginning of a new family.

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I stopped asking the wedding question and focused on enjoying Stoli's company while encouraging her to make her own life with her boyfriend. We cooked family dinners together and made sure he joined us. I gave her pointers on grocery shopping and pregnancy fitness. (I wish I'd worn support hose…if I had, I wouldn't have varicose veins now.) She called me from work when she didn't feel well and I rushed over with crackers.

Over the summer and through the fall we all grew: my daughter, the baby inside her, her boyfriend— and mostly, I'm embarrassed to admit, me. I learned that I can't live my daughter's life for her, but I can be the supportive mother she needs more than ever.

When the ultrasound technician from Juneau visited our rural clinic, Stoli asked if I wanted to come with her and her boyfriend. She was babysitting little Caroline, who toddled in with us, too. In the dim curtained exam room we stared at what looked like the black-and- white radar screen on Stoli's boyfriend's fishing boat. When the technician asked if they wanted to know the sex, I squeezed Caroline's tiny hand. "I'm pretty sure it's a girl," he said. "Although this isn't 100% accurate." Another girl. How lucky are we? Stoli will have a daughter now, too. Then the technician said, "Here's her heart, look at that, it's beautiful."

Now in the baby-to-be's room with my daughter, as I prepare to paint, we hear her boyfriend out in the yard splitting wood for the stove. I want to tell Stoli how happy I am for them, and for all of us, but I'm afraid we'd both cry, so instead I look at the pan of wet paint and say, "This sure is bright." She asks if it's too much. I realize that she'd actually change her mind if I said it was. I tell her if she likes it, then I do, but suggest we paint one wall this tint and make the rest a shade lighter. She approves of the compromise. I shoo her next door to avoid the fumes, and as I roll springtime onto those dull winter walls I know for certain that sometimes things don't go the way we plan, and sometimes, like this time, that's just fine.

Heather Lende is a contributing editor to Woman's Day. Her most recent book is Take Good Care of the Garden and the Dogs. She lives in Haines, Alaska.

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Date: 02.12.2018, 19:49 / Views: 75431