She's been gone for more than 50 years, but I remember Christine.
I grew up in a predominately Polish/Italian neighborhood on the east side of Detroit, where streets run in a grid and you can identify where you live as your "block." I like to joke that some of my neighbors could not afford to "buy a vowel" for their last name. We did not have much, but we had fun.
As a little kid, I was allowed to go wherever I liked, as long as I stayed on our block. That meant that I could visit as many neighbors and friends as I wanted, as long as I did not cross a street.
One door down was a family with 4 boys, 2 dogs and a very prolific cat. They had a big side lot that was suitable for softball games, Red Rover, games of "tag" and chasing fireflies. They had a cherry tree that was perfect for climbing and making pies. It was a fun place to go.
The mom of the family was Christine, and I loved her. She was a lot younger than my mom, and, having 4 boys, I think she enjoyed my company.
I was a "girlie-girl" who wore ribbons and bows and pink patent leather shoes. To play in a sandbox.
My mom used to let me walk over to visit Christine, who allowed me to "help" with her daily chores and housework. She taught me to fold washcloths and match pairs of socks. We talked. I remember sitting opposite her while she gently dressed her baby, Donnie, and pulled his tiny socks onto his tiny feet.
The older boys were in school. I had Christine all to myself. I was 6.
Christine was wonderful. She baked a special little cake for every kid in the neighborhood for their birthdays. Girls like me got one with a little doll stuck in the middle, dressed in a frilly gown custom-designed with colorful frosting! I used to sit at the family's kitchen table and watch her create these masterpieces...using a little baggie made of waxed paper and an incredible level of artistry and skill.
If she was so wonderful to the neighborhood kids, can you even imagine how wonderful she was to her own family?
One day, I went upstairs and found my mother, face down on her bed, sobbing. I had never seen her in such a condition. She told me that Christine had died. She told me that Christine had been expecting a baby, and that the baby had died, too. The baby was a girl.
I did not understand death.
I knew that I would never get another special cake with a special doll, dressed up in frosting, just for me.
I knew that Donnie could not put on his own socks.
The boys grandmother came up to cook and keep house, and pretty soon, the boys dad found a wonderful woman with two kids and pretty soon, our neighborhood had its own version of "Yours, Mine and Ours."
I remember watching Donnie cuddle with his new mom while the rest of us were running, playing and swimming. I will always be grateful to her.
In adulthood, Donnie ended his own life. I don't know the circumstances. I don't know how you recover from losing your mom before you can dress yourself, even if a really nice lady steps in and does all she can to help.
I'm not a particularly religious person and I don't know what happens to people when they die. I'm hoping that, wherever he is, Donnie is with BOTH of his wonderful moms.