Inviting my mother to dinner to meet the new man in my life was a mistake. I could already see the mental gears churning and questions forming.
"So that's Josh, eh?" she concluded. The man in question flashed a smile in my direction while playing with my two children in the lounge room. My mother and I were preparing dinner in the adjoining open plan kitchen.
"Yep, that's him." Lame question, lame answer.
"Honestly, Michelle, it's good to see you getting back out there. It's been almost two years since Arthur ran off overseas with his secretary. I was afraid you were going to let life pass you by."
"Is that what you called my marriage to Arthur, Mum--life?" I shot back.
"Look, I know it was not a bed of roses, sweetie, but it's all behind you now," she said, trying to console me.
"Behind me, perhaps, but still a daily reminder that my ability to pick 'em is fundamentally flawed. What if Josh is like Arthur, Mum? What if he cons me with charming rhetoric too?"
"He didn't just con you with his flowery words, Michelle. Whenever I voiced my concerns about him your answer was, 'But I like him, Mum.' Remember?"
I was not in the mood for a 'I told you so' discussion, but she spoke the truth. "Yeah, I know Mum, it's just that the chemistry between Arthur and me was so strong--it felt so right."
"But what happened when that euphoria wore off?"
"I got the shock of my life," I replied sadly.
Mum nodded. "It is so much better to enter a relationship with your eyes open, darling. You cannot afford to let physical or emotional attraction blind your eyes to a potential partner's weaknesses. I'm so glad to see that you are using your head as well as your heart this time."
"I'm trying, Mum, but it's a case of once bitten twice shy. I'm petrified of making the same mistakes again."
We glanced in the lounge room. My five-year old, Ben, clung to Josh's back like a koala, while Jess, eight, was trying to appropriate his glasses--currently worn upside down as part of his clown act.
"Is he always like that with the kids, Michelle?"
I laughed in spite of myself; "Those three are inseparable. Every time he comes over, the kids are all over him before he's even through the door. I have to get in line."
"So how do the two of you spend quality time together?"
"After the kids go to bed," I replied.
Mum nodded thoughtfully, "That's a good sign, you know. Although I've been praying for you to find someone, I've been concerned that Jess and Ben might ruin your chances by resenting his intrusion into your lives."
"That worried me too. I actually had a few dates with a different guy last year, but Jess and Ben froze him out so badly that I gave up. But Josh here? They took to him like pigs to mug"
"Literally!" my mother exclaimed now that Ben and Jess were climbing on his back.
"Did you hear what happened last night?" I queried hesitantly.
"Look Michelle, I'm sorry I couldn't make it to Jess' ballet concert" she began defensively.
"Don't worry about that, Mum. I know you couldn't get out last night because Dad wasn't well. I'm talking about something that happened at the ballet concert," I reassured her.
"Are you talking about Jess getting the Most Improved Trophy?"
"No, something else. You remember how Jess always asked her dad to come to her concerts?"
"That noisy windbag," snorted my mother. "Every year he promised her he would attend, but never turned up. Poor Jess cried after every concert."
"I know," I sighed. "But check this out: last night there was an empty seat next to me, and just as the kids came out on stage to do their opening number, this guy appeared from nowhere and sat in it."
"What's with the suspense treatment, daughter. Who was he?" Mum pressed.
"It was Josh. The sweetie had rung the concert organiser, found out where I was sitting, and secretly bought a ticket next to mine," I replied.
"Did Jess see him?"
I nodded. "Oh yes--one advantage of sitting in the front row--she saw him straight away. You should have seen the way her face lit up. And her performance, Mum: I've never seen her so inspired. In fact, I've never seen her that happy before--she was positively glowing."
"Oh drat, and I had to go and miss it!" Mum lamented.
I laid a hand on her arm, "Don't worry, Mum. Josh brought a camera and filmed all of her dances, so you can see her in action after dinner."
"Michelle, I think you can stop worrying about your inability to find a good man," she said softly.
I laughed. "How can you say that, Mum? You've barely said three words to him."
"Think about it, darling. Turning up unexpectedly at Jess' concert, giving so much love and attention to your kids, and the way he looks at you, speaks volumes all by itself." She pointed to the sofa where Jess and Ben were snuggled against Josh while they watched TV. "Did you ever see joy on their faces like that in the few times their father actually stayed home? Darling, this one's a keeper."
Luke 6:44 (NASB) For each tree is known by its own fruit.
Peter Stone, a Bible College Graduate, has an international marriage and two children. Suffers from epilepsy and otosclerosis. He teaches Sunday school and plays the piano in church.
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