By Every Family’s Got One Founder — Barbara Herel
My mom, Betty, is five-foot-one and is armed with a superpower: the ability to make any situation – no matter how strange or overwhelming – Better. Like the time my 9-year-old niece was summoning spirits with the Ouji board.
“Are there any spirits who want to speak to us?” my niece asked.
Then the mystical indicator…
began spelling out the names of her dead dogs (all on its own mind you). My niece burst into tears.
I didn’t know what to say, but apparently, my mom did – “Isn’t it wonderful that those dogs would come back from beyond the grave just to say hello to you. Isn’t that wonderful?”
And just like that Betty made it better.
And it’s not just supernatural dealings. Betty can make far more earthly endeavors better too – like when I had bed bugs.
Frankly, I’m surprised Betty let me and my family sit on her furniture that day, let alone invite us to stay with her for a week.
But she did and declared…
that SHE (and my dad, whom Betty often volunteers without his knowledge or consent), would help me empty the entire contents of my house, about 10 years worth of stuff, to have it fumigated.
Only Betty could see past the monumental task and schieve factor saying “Isn’t it wonderful that you finally get to go room by room, drawer by drawer and de-clutter everything! You’ll have the cleanest most organized home on the block. Isn’t that wonderful?”
And just like that, she made it better.
Betty’s almost maddening upbeat enthusiasm has seen me through many a challenging experience. The biggest one to date, even bigger than bed bugs, was my road to motherhood by way of adoption. Here’s one way Betty made the adoption process better…
My husband and I were packed into a small hotel suite in Indiana with a newborn baby – and my mom and dad, which under normal circumstances would have been nerve-racking. Add on top of that the stress of adoption (and being packed into a small hotel suite with my mom and dad.)
Now when you’re adopting domestically…
there’s a 10-day wait period, where my husband and I were required to stay in Indiana until the legal powers-that-be said we could return home to New York with the baby. This was easily some of the most difficult 10 days of our lives…
Would the baby really be coming home with us? In our anxious minds, there was always the real possibility that she might not. That’s the thing with adoption, you don’t know until YOU KNOW.
Uncertain in our new roles as parents…
quite literally, my husband and I focused all of our attention on the baby, barely figuring out together how to maneuver her tiny body in the tiny basin so as not the smack her tiny head into the faucet.
We couldn’t think straight, we were restless and exhausted. If we were by ourselves we probably wouldn’t have eaten anything close to a real meal.
But we had Betty.
I remember her returning to our economy suite one late afternoon.
“Isn’t it wonderful,” she exclaimed. “It’s Happy Hour and they’re serving Chinese food!
Who knows why this Residence Inn in the middle of nowhere was serving chicken and broccoli stir-fry in the lobby. Or why the staff would let Betty take most of the contents from the chafing dish back to her room on ten tiny plates.
“They even found me a tray to carry everything on…
Isn’t that wonderful?”
And it was. I tell you it was the best tasting shitty food I ever shoveled into my mouth.
In that moment Betty wasn’t just feeding us, she was sustaining our fortitude. Letting us know that even if we were to return to New York the way we came, with an empty Snugride infant car seat, she would be there ready, willing and able to somehow make it better.
I wonder what she would have said…
on that long car ride home if we didn’t have our baby girl – “Isn’t it wonderful that we got to see Indiana in February?”
Most likely, Betty wouldn’t have said anything at all. She would have just held me close.
Because that’s her superpower…
taking the bad and making it better.
And because I do have a daughter (our baby girl is now nine-years-old), every day I do my very best to be the Betty in her life to make things better.
Isn’t that wonderful?
A version of this story was originally published on Barbara’s Adoptive Families Circle Improv Mom blog. She also told Betty Makes it Better as part of the 2016 Listen To Your Mother storytelling show in New York City.