Mother to Many

[An original story, based on a folktale called, "The King's Child"]

After one year, there was still no child. 

On her 21st birthday, the young bride left her house clutching a wad of cash tighly in her hand. Walking quickly, she headed to a nearby street. As she walked she glanced around furtively, hoping not to see anyone she knew. 

A cascade of small bells went off as she pushed open the door. An old woman beckoned her through a bejeweled curtain and into the back room. 

She sat down across a battered wooden table from the woman who looked deep into her eyes and said, "What would you like to know my child?"

Looking down at her hands, and then up at the old woman, the girl asked the question that had been in her heart for many years, "When will I have a child?"

The woman said, "You are but a child yourself, my dear. Go back to school and learn about the world; then you will be ready to mother a child."

The girl left, head hung low, but she did as the old woman had suggested. That fall she enrolled at a local college. 

During her final year of college she got a job at a preschool. Her days were filled with the joy and laughter of children. She felt more ready than ever to be a mother. 

After her graduation she and her husband tried again to conceive, but after one year she was still not with child. 

Again she went to the old woman with a handful of cash. As she sat down, she handed the woman her money and said, "I did as you suggested and got an edutcation. Now I am ready to be a mother When will it happen?"

The woman cupped the young woman's hand in her own and said, "My child, the time is still not right. Did you not enjoy teaching the little ones while at school?"

"Yes, but..."

The woman cut her off. "Then why not teach again for awhile until the time is right?"

The young woman's heart sank, but she headed home and once again took the old woman's advice. 

The next few years went by in the blink of an eye. She loved teaching and she loved her students, but after seven years, she felt the old longing creeping up on her. She still had no child of her own. 

One day while shopping in her old neighborhood she happened upon the palm reader's storefront, the same as it had ever been. She walked inside and once again found herself seated at the table in front of the old woman. 

"Perhaps you do not remember me..." she began. 

Before she could continue, the old woman grabbed her hand and said, "I remember." 

Looking deep into the younger woman's palm she spoke,"I know you wish to have a child, but the tme is still not right. Take a vacation - a trip - far away from here. There you will find your destiny."

Pulling her hand away she said, "Find my destiny? What does that mean?"

But the old woman would say no more. She merely smiled and patted the younger woman's hand, sending her on her way. 

Her heart ached, but once again she took the woman's advice. 

She and her husband packed away all of their belongings and set off on a long journey. Starting in Europe, they made their way across Russia and Asia into Africa. 

In Africa they met a group of missionaries who were building an orphanage, so they stayed to help. Working first to build the structure, and then to make it a home, they eventually created a school for the children who lived there.

Soon seven more years had gone by and they decided it was time to return home. With tears in their eyes they said goodbye to the children they had grown to love and boarded a plane for home. 

The next morning the woman - no longer young - awoke feeling sad and strange. Something was still missing. 

Dressing quickly, she headed out to take a walk. She walked a long distance and ended up, once again, outside of the storefront she had visited for the first ime so many years before. 

The sight of it ignited a fire inside of her. "I have done everything she advised me to do," she thought angrily, "And still I do not have a child."

She pushed open the door and sat down at the table across from the woman, who was now very old. 

Tears rolled down her cheeks as she said,'You have told me again and again that the time was not right for me to have a child. Now I am nearly too old. Tell me the truth. Will I ever have a child?"

The old woman did not react to her anger or her tears; instead she took the now middle-aged woman's hand in her own and gazed at it as if it contained all the secrets of the universe. 

"It is true my dear that you are barren and always have been."

The younger woman gasped,"Why did you not tell me before? How could you have lied to me?"

The old woman looked up with kind eyes and said: 

"My child, I did not lie. It is not always possible to know what life will bring. I say to you truly that your life could not have been more complete had a child been born unto you when you first tried. 

Life has brought you many children, each of whom you loved as only you could. You have been a mother in all the ways that really matter, and you have been a mother not just to one or two, but to many. 

All the love you have given to these children will be passed on to their children and to their children's children, until the children you have mothered will number in the millions and there will be one star in the sky for every child on earth who has been nurtured by your love. 

Now go home my child, and have a rest. And when you rise, go out into the world and find more children to love."

As the woman walked home in the fading light of the afternoon, she thought about what the old woman had said. 

Finally, she arrived home. 

Before she opened the door, she looked up at the sky and saw the first stat appear. As she stood and stared up at it, another star appeared, and then another and another. 

When the sky was full of stars she smiled, and went inside. 

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