In September of 2008, I came to work with a secret that few knew. I had a tiny baby growing inside of me. He was about 11 weeks old at the time. I remember feeling a sense of excitement, fear, and sheer happiness whenever I thought about it.
My husband and I were truly overjoyed to know that come March, we would have a bundle of joy to cuddle and cherish of our own. As I began my fifth year teaching, I felt an instant bond with my class and the parents that were entrusting their children to me. While I had always tried to think “like a parent,” now I was going to be one. It was much easier to put myself in the actual shoes of a parent that fall.
I was fortunate to have an incredible group of students that year, and the excitement did not stop with my budding belly. The Philadelphia Phillies made it to the playoffs, and I had the most dedicated crew of Philadelphia sports families that year, too. We were all caught up in the playoffs and then the World Series.
The final game of the series happened to coincide with my 20 week ultrasound. My husband was hoping we could catch the entire game in hopes that the Phillies would bring home the pennant. At 8:38 P.M., we learned that a little boy was healthy and happy growing inside of me, bigger and stronger every day. It seemed fitting to learn that our baby was a boy on the night that the Phillies reclaimed the title after almost three decades of a drought.
Then, on the day of the champions’ parade, I connected with a person that would mean so much to me in 2009 and beyond. She was the mother of a wonderful young man in my class that year and we had an instant connection. Later on in the year, we made arrangements for her to watch my son when I started working again. I was scared to say that anyone except me would care for my baby, but I felt secure and safe knowing that he would be in her care.
She was the second mother to my son that I had always hoped I would find and all was well. We made it though birthdays, the loss of pets and the exciting news that I would have a new little lady to add to the collection of children in January of 2011. Her family became a part of my family and I knew that my children were a true extension of her family.
I was lucky enough to teach her other two remarkable children and life was still good.
Then Kelsey was hospitalized for 16 days. Life changed in a way that I could not fully comprehend until very recently, and the weight of the world no longer seemed a shared responsibility. I closed off many emotions and connections and soon, I shut out the woman who was the second mother to both of my children.
Kelsey’s diagnosis came after this second mother had a year full of uncertainty and sadness herself. We both likely needed each other more than we knew, but life pulled us apart.
It had been almost two years before she and I reconnected, and I was grateful on that day in a way that words can not express. Keeping Kelsey’s battle a struggle from most of the world meant that it was also a secret kept from Kelsey’s second mother.
The old saying goes that some friendships pick up where they left off, and this one did not just pick up, it took off. This amazing woman and her family got to work and thought about a way to help Kelsey and her foundation immediately.
On Saturday, September 24 at Chestnut Branch Park, an amazing group of families, led by this incredible woman will come together to host a Lemonade Stand for Kelsey. Aside from the enormous gratitude I feel inside, I am also overwhelmed because it was her children who came up with the idea. My former students decided to teach me a lesson in giving more than you ever expect to receive. Their kindness and generosity is exemplary. As their former teacher thinking “like a parent,” I am proud, humbled, and full of joy.
If you are free this weekend to purchase lemonade, buy a bracelet, share a hug, or say hello, join us at Chestnut Branch Park. We will be there from 10-2 to spread awareness and keep the attitude of gratitude alive.
If you’re free in PA afterward, join us for the sounds of Sunday Muse and another opportunity to spread the word and the love.
To close with the words of Dr. Seuss, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
Thank you caring a whole awful lot. Life is going to improve for Kelsey, just watch.