I never planned it this way.  I never meant for it to occur.  And then one day it just happened.  I woke up and in the words of Dr. Suess’ Grinch, my “heart grew three sizes that day.”

I always knew that I wanted kids.  I had worked too hard and come too far intrapersonally not to give something away to the generation behind.  In fact, in my early days when infertility seemed to be my path, the idea of not being a parent stung like a grief unrelieved.  But lucky me.  That just led to amazement number one, thanks to Pat.  She created and carried him.  And I get to raise him.  My purple elephant comic ice hockey goalie.  Did I mention he is also a drummer and a gourmet chef?  Yes, he’s the surprise-of-the-day, but by far, the best.

And then at the ripe ole’ age of 37, my oopsie-I-did-not-think-this-was-gonna-work baby came along.  This one needed to be a girl.  And I was thrilled when the early test results showed that the Universe agreed with me, that I was ready to raise a daughter.  With the exception of that curly hair, out popped mini-me.  And we are full-blown on it and in it.  We chat, we argue, we travel, we laugh, we make messes, we clean them up.  And I would not do it any other way with anyone else.  Such a joy she is.

So, I bought the dog and thought I was done.  One boy, one girl and the pug.  All wrapped neatly in a bow.  Living the dream.

And then I saw her.  Riding her bike past our house one day.  “Who is that?” I asked the kids at dinner.  Of course, being up on the latest neighborhood gossip, my kids informed me that that was Zoe.   My maternal nature never one to truly close shop, I had unknowingly just caught site of my third surprise child.

I soon came to know that like my son, Zoe too had been adopted.  Her courageous Mom, after an unexpected bad ending to her marriage. decided she wanted to be a parent.  And off to South America she went in search of a child.

Looking back, I cannot recall the details of how it happened. I imagine that like any new relationship, our families began to get to know one another through consistent contact over time.  Having the unforeseen fortune of buying a house in modern day Mayberry, our home quickly became known as the “it” place, the home where all the neighborhood kids wanted to hang out.  I swear there are many a nights that I have no idea how many kids I am feeding for dinner.  I just cook and we make places at the table as hungry mouths appear.

Zoe soon had her own seat at our kitchen table.  Her own placemat, her own chair and soon, her own chores.  She had worked her way into our home and more importantly, into our hearts. My kids got an extra sister, and I, an unexpected bonus daughter. We travel together, we chat about any and everything and we tell each other we love each other as if the feeling had never not existed. I knew our bond was sealed when she began to come over, even when my kids were away, and root on the losing Redskins with me. I guess I had been vetted.  I have some kind of cool-factor.

One day, Zoe texted me to stop by and say “hello” to some of her friends who were sleeping over. When I entered the downstairs teen-zone, Zoe politely introduced me as her “neighbor.” Ouch, shot through the heart. All of a sudden, I had been demoted to being just the convenient, faceless, distant neighbor. We joke now about that moment. When her need for coolness superseded our friendship. When being labeled just the “neighbor” was a jolting understatement.

I am lucky that way.   Or blessed, depending on how you look at it.   I am surrounded by love – both the opportunity to spread its magic and the inevitable return it brings me ten-fold. What started out as a potentially childless adulthood has become an embarrassment of riches. That kids, other than the two of my own, have incorporated such phrases as “put up your boundaries” and “we need to repair, Ms. Ginger.” That friends of friends pay a spontaneous visit for a hug, because they know that in our home, we hug with two hands. That if you are standing in the kitchen during one of our dishwashing parties, you better catch the towel coming at you ’cause you gotta join the fun and start drying.

Don’t get me wrong. There are moments when I long for quiet. When I wish the pandemonium would halt and I could hear the voice of my own thoughts. When I might actually have the internal space to self-reflect rather than be one step shy of being taken down.

When I do have that infrequent flash of serene self-reflection, I usually feel sad. Because I know that in a wink, life, amidst the swirl of the chaotic environs I currently reside, will be over. That kids leave home. That friends, not parents, become more in vogue. That life outside becomes more alluring than life inside. I get that. That is the way it is supposed to roll. In fact, being abandoned by y children means I did something right as a mom. (I often tease my son – no 35-year-olds are going to be living on my couch!) But until then, I am going to relish this chapter. I got more to teach, more laugh lines to embed, more tears to well, more dinners to make, more heartache to endure.

One thing I have ascertained is that life throws curveballs. And I am grateful to have remained on the field, in the game, awake to its mighty and ultimate benevolence.