When Jackson’s mother died, he was taken in by his next-door neighbor, who was a close friend of his late mother. Jackson never liked Mrs. Herring, but on her 60th birthday, something happened, and he called her ‘Mommy’ for the first time.
The Herrings were a large, happy family, unlike Jackson’s previous home, which had only him and his mother, Lydia. Unfortunately, his father had died many years ago, and since none of his relatives stepped forward to care for him after Lydia’s death, Mrs. Herrings took him in.
“Your mother and I knew each other for years, boy,” she had told him when she applied for his custody. “I’d hate to see you grow up in that foster care system, Jackson. I truly would.”
But Jackson didn’t like Mrs. Herring or her big family, which included her several children and grandchildren living in a cozy house in their neighborhood. For one thing, he had no privacy at the Herring house. Also, the place was chaotic all the time except at night.
But then he had heard terrible stories about foster homes and shelters where orphans lived, and he had told the social worker that he felt safe in Mrs. Herring’s home. However, as time passed, Jackson started hating the lively atmosphere of the house.
One day, he was playing video games with his friend, Rob, when Mrs. Herring’s younger grandchildren stormed into his room and demanded that he let them join the game.
“Back off, kids!” Jackson said, irritated. “Can’t you at least knock before coming in?”
“Stacey and I both want to play, Jackson!” 6-year-old Ted said. “Please?”
“They’re so annoying! I’m done. Hey, Rob, let’s go to your house. I can’t even get peace and quiet here!” And off Jackson went to Rob’s house.
Dinners were equally noisy in the big household, and one night, Jackson didn’t want to leave his room and join everyone for dinner because they had guests over.
“Jackson,” Mr. Herring called out to him from downstairs. “Come and join us, kid!”
Family is more than just genetics. So cherish the people who love you.
Jackson heard Mr. Herring, but he pretended he didn’t and wore his headphones to avoid them. That’s when Mr. Herring came to his room.
“Jackson?” he asked, and this time Jackson had to take his headphones off. “Hey, I’ve been calling you for minutes now! You’re not coming?”
“I’m not hungry,” he said flatly. “I was just gonna go to sleep.”
“Well, you can go to sleep but not with an empty stomach, boy. We promised your mother we’d look after you, and she’d definitely hate this. We have your favorite grilled chicken salad. Come down soon, alright?”
Frowning, Jackson went downstairs and joined everyone. He had to greet everyone even though he didn’t want to, and he finally sat at the table, hating the loud voices of people chatting.
“So you’re Jackson!” a woman whom the Herrings introduced as Linda said. “You were quite lucky to become a part of this family, boy! Orphans end up in shelter homes!”
Linda’s sharp tongue irked Jackson. “I think your kids would be better off in that shelter home. Who would want a mother like you?” he said loudly, and everyone fell silent.
“Jackson, honey,” Mrs. Herring scolded him gently. “That was rude!”
“It appears you’ve invited trouble, Bonnie,” Linda said sharply. “What a spoiled brat!”
Mrs. Herring sighed. “I’m sorry, everyone. Jackson didn’t mean it,” she said apologetically. “His mother was a good friend of mine, and it’s been hard for him not having her around. Jackson, honey, it’s ok… and I’m sorry, Linda.”
“Yeah, whatever,” Linda rolled her eyes. “You’re a good friend, Bonnie, so I’ll let this slide. It happens! After all, he’s a motherless child. Sadly, his mother left him without teaching him proper respect for elders.”
At that point, Jackson lost his cool. He tossed the soup bowl to the floor and announced he was leaving. “I’d be better off on the streets!” he screamed. “This is ridiculous! Was I called here to be humiliated like this?”
Mrs. Herring went after him as he returned with a backpack and was about to leave. “Jackson, honey, we can talk things out, ok? You don’t need to leave!” she said.
“Stay away from me!” Jackson told her rudely. “You’re not my mother, so stop telling me what to do!”
At that point, Mrs. Herring’s face fell and tears rose in her eyes. Jackson stormed out of the house, shocking everyone.
“Well, you’re right…” said Mrs. Herring to herself. “I’m not your mother, after all.”
Jackson didn’t have any money with him, so he went straight to Rob’s house, but Rob didn’t let him stay there.
“Man, Mom, and Dad both know Mrs. Herring. If Mom discovers you are here because you left home, she will send you back. Besides, I doubt that Mom would let you stay here. She’s too preoccupied with everything, and she won’t be able to look after you as well…”
After spending the night on the street, a hungry and tired Jackson was standing outside the Herrings’ home the next morning, regretting what he had done the previous night. However, he was still hesitant to enter until he heard a voice behind him say, “You’re here? Come on in.”
When Jackson turned around, he saw Mr. Herring.
“I came back here just…” he paused and swallowed, “to get some things.”
“I spoke with Rob, and I knew you’d return,” said Mr. Herring. “You didn’t have any money on you! So stop it, kid! Get inside.”
Jackson lowered his head, embarrassed. “I’m sorry, I was a little rude to everyone yesterday,” he admitted. “I should also apologize to Mrs. Herring.”
“Yes, you must,” Mr. Herring said. “When she gets home from the hospital.”
“What?” asked Jackson, stunned. “The hospital?”
“She got a heart attack,” said Mr. Herring gravely. “She was rushed to the hospital last night after you left.”
Jackson felt terrible about what he had done. But he felt worse when Mr. Herring told him how much Mrs. Herring loved him. “She had helped your mother during her delivery, and she was there for you when you were as little as a peanut!” he laughed. “Your dad had passed away, and your mother was feeling very low when she found she was pregnant, Jackson.”
“I’m not saying this to make you feel bad or anything, but we should enjoy the company we have while we can because life is too short, boy.”
“I was really horrible, wasn’t I?” asked Jackson. “I need to make it up to Mrs. Herring. She’s done a lot for me.”
“Well, then, I have an idea,” Mr. Herring winked.
A few days after this, Mrs. Herring returned home from the hospital to find her house decked out with balloons, party poppers, and rose petals leading from the door to the living room table, where a beautiful cake awaited her.
“Happy birthday, honey, and welcome back home,” Mr. Herring said as he led her inside. On her 60th birthday, all the family members wished Mrs. Herring, but her sad eyes were searching for Jackson everywhere.
“He isn’t here?” she asked sadly. “Did he not come home yet?”
“I’m sorry, honey,” said Mr. Herring. “How about we put everything aside and just cut the cake?”
Mrs. Herring sighed. She sat at the table and was about to blow out the candles when the doorbell rang.
“I’ll get it!” said Mr. Herring as he marched to the door. When he answered it, Mrs. Herrings started crying.
On the doorstep stood Jackson with a huge bouquet of red roses in his hands. He walked up to Mrs. Herring, hugged her, and said, “Happy birthday, Mommy! Were you planning on cutting the cake without me?”
Mrs. Herring cried. She cried so much that even Jackson couldn’t keep his tears at bay. “I’m sorry,” he sobbed. “Sorry for how rude I was. It must have hurt you when you didn’t see me here for the celebration, right? Well, that was Dad’s idea!”
“Dad?” asked Mrs. Herring in tears. “Did you just…”
“Mom and Dad, yes,” said Jackson, wiping his tears. “This is my family, and I will treasure every moment we share because life is too short. Right, Dad?”
That day, the Herrings and Jackson cried, laughed, and had a lot of cake together. Mrs. Herring’s 60th birthday turned out to be the best one, and she was ‘gifted’ with a loving son.
What can we learn from this story?
Love can melt the coldest of hearts. Mrs. Herring’s care for Jackson made him realize she deserved to become his mother.
Family is more than just genetics. So cherish the people who love you. The Herrings provided Jackson with a loving home, and the boy became a part of the family after realizing how much they cared for him.
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