No one can define “family” for you.

It’s not about politics, religion or genetics.

It’s personal.

Who we love and who loves us is the foundation of our humanity.

I was “adopted” as someone’s mother when I was almost 52 years old. How it occurred was a complete and unexpected surprise mixed with joy and pain.

I became a mother in 2011 without having to endure morning sickness, labor pains or diapers, the terrible two’s and the horrible teen years. When the stork delivered my daughter, Madie Thompson, she was already trained to eat, walk and go to the bathroom on her own.

She was a bouncy, bubbly and vocal 19-year-old from Oregon who worked as an assistant manager at Subway on Indian Trail. She was also a student in one of my theater classes at Central Texas College, and became the best student in that class and one of my best students ever.

She impressed me with her skills and unbelievable work ethic. Madie stood out as an intelligent, strong-willed young woman. Opinionated is a mild way to put it, but she often proved to be correct. Truthfully, she is perceptive and senses when someone is deceptive.

Like many students, Madie shared stories of her life with me, because she trusted me. I won’t share the details, but as the child of a divorce, Madie didn’t have a good mother or home life.

Fast-forward three years to this moment when she and I, not a teacher anymore, are truly mother and daughter. Our evolution as a “family” doesn’t meet with approval from some of my friends, former students and colleagues.

So be it.

I love her as my daughter and that’s all there is to it.

Madie starts college soon at Texas State University in San Marcos, my alma mater, and she received a $37,500 scholarship from the Terry Foundation. Her major is drama education, and she wants to teach theater to high school students.

This is a message she sent to me recently: “I wish you had been my mother, too. But with every end comes a beginning and I trust no one more to teach my children right from wrong and love from hate than you. I’m very proud of how our relationship has developed in the last few years. I really do feel that you are the closest thing I have ever had to a real mother.”

She hasn’t left yet, but I already miss her.

I’ll miss our weekly Taco Tuesday dinners and movie nights. I’ll miss when she says, “I never grow tired of seeing you.”

One young lady I didn’t know a few years ago “adopted” me as her mother at a time when I thought I knew all about love and life. I’m so grateful to be Madie’s mom and I’m proud of my family.

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