Mother Taught Me

by Jacquie Britton
Placerville, California, USA

Mother Taught Me

My Mother Sylvia M. Miller was one in a million. She was orphaned when she was seven, sent to relatives in Missouri to live, and was on her own when she was thirteen. She supported herself as a hairdresser during the depression and in the best ways she could.

After her marriage, she found herself unable to have children and she adopted me. I was born a handicapped child of Indian descent. In the eyes of the state of Montana, I was considered unadoptable but my mother and father fought the state for over two years to finalize my adoption. They won after many court battles.

During my childhood, she cared for countless foster children. She had over 100 in one year alone. She couldn’t bear to see an unloved child. She took babies from receiving homes, and cared for them with love until good homes and good parents could be found for them.

I remember one child in particular. She was of Japanese decent and this was after WWII when anti-Japanese sentiments were rampant in the U.S. I was about three years old when we got “Ding-Ding” — her name was Mai-Lai but I couldn’t say her name, so that’s what I called her. She was a delicate, beautiful child and we all loved her so very much. She was ours for more than a year before she found a family. We all cried when she left.

My mother cared for foster children until just two years before she died. I have seen so many abused, sad children become loved, wonderful members of society because of her. I am still in touch with many that she had and we consider each other as family.

My mother did this not for the money, for there would be no amount of money that could compensate her for the time and the emotions that she put into her home. She didn’t want to see any child spend a Christmas without someone who cared. She did it because she truly didn’t want to see any child have to go through what she did when she grew up, and she taught me to truly love life.

Originally published as HeroicStories #28 on July 6, 1999

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