My little Ally was also fair, as was her father, and had an indistinct ethnic look about her; perhaps even a bit Polynesian-like. She became more exotic looking as she grew older. Ally was a cheerful child who loved life and loved to laugh. She was just like I remembered her mother when I first met Christina at age 3. I was 31 and was instantly drawn to her. I later learned that life had been cruel to Christina, and by age 12 she had become emotionally independent, guarded, controlling, and manipulative, and all with a smile on her face. At 16, she was unreachable. Always scheming to get what she wanted; by age 17 Christina determined that Mr. Charming, Amado, was going to be her husband and that he would be a father to Ally. Within a few months, Christina was again pregnant and moved in with Amado. This was the first time I felt I had “lost” Ally. As long as Christina was single and out having fun, I was needed to babysit Ally, sometimes for days at a time. Her mother’s selfishness and immaturity grieved me, but I was delighted to have Ally to myself as much as possible. I enrolled her in Mothers Day Out, Jr. Jazzercise, and dance classes. I took her to church. I sang to her, rocked her to sleep, showed her Shirley Temple movies, and took her shopping, to work with me and to my parents’ summer home in the mountains each year. I even let Christina tag along the first time, when Ally was 6 months old, as well as on business trips, just so I could have Ally with me. After that, she was fine with me taking Ally by herself. After all, it gave Christina more time to be a teenager. My husband, my mother and sisters all thought I was obsessed, and I suppose I was; but I saw it as fulfilling a mission and taking care of the gift that God had given me. When Christina moved in with Amado, she took Ally with her, and I was devastated. I was jealous of Amado and resentful of his new role in Ally’s life. In my mind, I was her protector and caretaker, because Christina was too selfish and immature to be so. My husband and my mom tried to convince me that Ally was not mine and that I did not have the right to be resentful. I couldn’t make them understand that God had given her to me. Yes, I knew she wasn’t mine, but I was supposed to see to her welfare. That meant giving her what she needed, but more importantly, I believed it meant that I was to keep her as close to me as possible and to shield her from the unhealthy lifestyle of Christina and Amado, and the constant arguing, yelling, and emotional neglect. To my relief, they allowed me to continue taking Ally to Mothers Day Out on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and more often than not, that turned in to her being with me from Monday night until Thursday afternoon and many weekend nights. Christina also was happy for me to take Ally to church with me on Sundays. I did not know that by then Christina not only had another out of wedlock pregnancy to deal with, and no marriage proposal from Amado, but that he had what she later referred to as a “drinking problem”, and that she was often left alone while Amado was out carousing in the sports clubs and strip bars. She did not have the emotional wherewithal to take care of a toddler. I was more than happy to take on that role. Every day I grew to love Ally more and more. My love for her was intense and consuming, and I saw her as my mission to protect and disciple and also to remove her from their dysfunction as often as possible.
Christina was beautiful and fair; half Caucasian half Mexican with a lot more Spanish blood than Indian. At 16 she ran away from the controlling and prison-like existence her father had imposed upon her. Because her mother had died when she was only seven, and her father had disowned her upon learning of her pregnancy, she had called me, a friend of the family, for support. I went through the pregnancy with her and was at her side for Ally’s birth. When the nurse handed the little whimpering bundle to me, I knew that God was handing her to me. Her tiny brow was furrowed and I gently rubbed her forehead until she relaxed. God was telling me to protect her, to take care of her, and to be there for her. I softly told her that everything was going to be okay, and that I would take care of her. Her father chose not to take responsibility and she had no grandmother so I, having no children of my own, at age 45, asked Christina if I could be Ally’s “grandma”. Christina welcomed the help and the free babysitting.
I did a lot of babysitting and loved every minute of it. I loved Ally as if she were my own. I clothed her, fed her, bathed her, sang to her, and rocked her to sleep. Christina spent almost every weekend with us, so I could look after Ally while she went out to be a teenager. Back in her father’s good graces, Christina had additional financial help and a place to live, and Ally had a grandpa.
Ally was not quite two years old when her mom again encountered the father of her child at a nightclub one evening. She brought him to my house that night to take a peek at their sleeping child, and then arranged a visit for them later that week. He seemed to be happy to have his daughter in his life, and his mother was even happier. After all, Ally was adorable. She was a bright and engaging toddler who warmed the heart of everyone she met. His family fell in love with her instantly and enthusiastically welcomed her into their fold. Incredibly, his wife was gracious and accepting of the child, at which I have always marveled. Whether she was truly a saint or the victim of her domineering, stereotypical Hispanic husband, I am not certain. She had a son only 22 days younger than Ally, which explains why he was unwilling to take responsibility when he learned of Christina’s pregnancy. After several visits I hoped that he would continue to be enough of a presence in Ally’s life to give her the security and connection with her father that every little girl needs. I knew her life would be difficult, and I dreaded the day when she would learn the details of her birth, but as long as her dad stayed in her life, she would know who she was and that she was loved by her father. Christina didn’t see it that way. When she had become pregnant, she was unable to wrangle him away from his girlfriend. She no doubt hoped she could now seduce him with the darling princessa they had conceived together. When that didn’t happen, Christina had little use for her daughter’s father. By now she had met Mr. Charming, a handsome and sensitive man with personality plus and several years her senior, and she cut off all contact between Ally and her father. She told me that Ally had said she no longer wanted to visit her dad, and I believed her.
It was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do in my entire life. Many times I had heard the cliché that if you really love someone, you have to let them go. I understood that and agreed. But I never thought I would have to experience it. I admit that it is one of the many reasons I chose not to have children of my own. I didn’t think I was emotionally strong enough to deal with motherhood and the pain that comes with it. Some have called that selfish or a cop out. Perhaps that is true. But at the same time, I never really had that mother instinct. I never even played with dolls as a child. Are there certain things that God simply wants some people to experience, regardless of the decisions they make otherwise? It seems so in my case. My husband and I had discussed having children many times, before and after our wedding. Neither of us was very drawn to the idea. Our perfectionist natures didn’t want to bring a child into this world. Furthermore, we had radically different ideas regarding child rearing and discipline. I suspect that another reason was our fear of failure. We always came back to the notion that we would probably change our minds. We never did. Fortunately, we have never regretted our decision. I do remember reading about thousands of orphaned Nicaraguan children during the Sandinista Revolution in the early 80s. I told my husband that I would be willing to adopt one of those children. I had always had a heart for the Latino people and been drawn to the Spanish culture. He was not too keen on the idea, so the matter was dropped. Not a problem, as I was very busy with my business and my big-city lifestyle. Then, after 20 years of marriage, she came into my life. I didn’t welcome her; I didn’t want her. I saw the whole thing as an inconvenience and an embarrassment. Little did I know what a blessing she would be and just how much I could love someone that I did not give birth to, who is not mine, and who is not even related to me. I was about to be swept away with intense love, compassion, obligation, and a sense that she had been given to me by God to take care of.