Katie Dianne Spurlock’s reputation preceded her.
While in high school, my son Kyle occasionally spoke of a young lady that all the boys liked. He smiled dreamily whenever he talked about her. They had the commonality of both African American and Italian heritage. As he described her, I thought of The Little Red-Haired Girl in the “Peanuts” comic strip. The Little Red-Haired Girl was the focus of Charlie Brown’s affection and unreciprocated love. She was the one who got away. Kyle also dejectedly mentioned that everyone knew Katie preferred “bad boys.”
My son was no bad boy. He was a private-school-educated athlete who traveled overseas for international tournaments and made good grades. Most importantly, he had strict parents who handed out consequences for bad decisions. In his mind, she would never notice a “good guy” like himself. But he was determined to win her affection. We knew Katie was important to him when he said he wanted us to meet her.
My then-wife and I had been in a relationship for two years by then. We had made a pact never to disagree in front of him. Children will often manipulate parents at the first sign of any discord between them. But now that he was dating, we knew it was time we had “The Conversation” with him.
My then-wife’s southern charm was on full display as she tactfully explained to Kyle that our home was our sanctuary. That it was the one place in the world she and I could live and love freely. I, on the other hand, with my city brashness, did not miss the opportunity to make her words crystal clear.
“Did you tell her you have two moms? Because we are not ‘de-dyking’ our home for anyone. We will not be taking down family photos. I am not calling your mother any other name than ‘honey’,” I said.
Shortly thereafter, he nervously confessed that she was the single mother of a 3-year-old son. I probed as to why he had failed to mention she had a child. He said he thought we would not want him to date her if we knew she was a single mother. His shoulders relaxed as I reminded him that I was a single mother and his other mother had chosen not just me but him. However, I stated that we were not interested in meeting her son at such an early stage in all their lives unless the two of them were serious about developing a relationship. I cautioned that children are like sponges, they absorb everything. Her son would suffer the most if Kyle provided a male role model only to disappear if they broke up.
We were all a little nervous the night of their first date. Kyle brought Katie home to meet us before heading to a comedy show. I had just finished cleaning up the dishes from dinner when they walked up the steps. “These are my two moms,” said Kyle. “This is Katie.”
Behind him stood a beautiful young lady who looked just as nervous. She smiled as she tossed her long auburn mane. Her makeup was flawless. “Hi. It’s nice to meet you.”
We spent the next thirty minutes chatting before they left for their date, a night that marked the beginning of our journey together.
We met Carter shortly after Kyle and Katie made their relationship official. I stood at the top of the stairs and watched as Katie’s young son struggled to reach each step. He looked so adorable as he reached the top.
“Are you Carter?” I asked.
He looked behind to find Katie. “You have a lot of steps. I like this house,” he declared.
Our dinner together that night was filled with laughter as Carter held center court. He was a well-mannered child, even at the age of 3. If he forgot to say “please” or “thank you,” Katie quickly reminded him. That was the first indication that she was a good mother.
I quietly observed that he sometimes addressed Kyle when he wanted something. That was a hint that Kyle was spending more time around Carter than he was telling us. Over time our concern grew stronger for Carter than for Katie and Kyle as their relationship ebbed and flowed.
My then-wife was welcoming and supportive of their relationship; as a formerly single mother, I recognized a lot of myself in Katie. When I became a stay-at-home mother after I recovered from a stroke, she and I began to spend more time together.
I smile as I recall the time I went birthday-gift shopping for my wife and invited Katie to join me. We took a cab downtown to shop on The Magnificent Mile. We laughed until our stomachs hurt as Kyle kept texting her from work to see what we were doing. We laughed so hard that the cabdriver said he wanted to go where we were going. We ended our day with lunch at Neiman Marcus.
I listened as Katie shared her hopes and dreams, not only for herself but for Carter. It was at that moment that I decided that I was in love with them both. I just had to find a way to keep them in my life. Katie and Kyle were so young. They needed time and space to experience life. What if they separated? Katie might not allow me to stay in Carter’s life. The thought broke my heart.
I needn’t have worried. God sent me another angel to love, just as I was going through a devastating divorce. The birth of my granddaughter, Keegan, tied me to Katie and Carter forever. Thanks to Kyle, I have been blessed to be Katie’s other mother for seven years now.
Katie is the daughter I always wanted but never had. We often laugh until we cry and cry until we laugh. I can look at her face and know when something is wrong before she utters a word and vice versa. My son and my grandchildren are the most blessed. She is the glue that holds our family together. As a mother and a grandmother, what more could I pray for?
As she celebrates her 30th birthday, I am proud of the woman Katie has fought to become.