A child's brain is a sponge, absorbing every small detail crossing through their vision and falling into small innocent ears. Most memories recalled by a healthy, happy child include those of a protective mother with warm comforting arms, a mother who can take away the pain of a scraped knee or bee sting with a magical kiss. A mother who sits beside them in the dirt, creating the most fantastic concoctions of mud pies with pebbles and weed seeds for toppings. A warm and caring mother who would read bedtime fairy tales... you know, the ones in which the handsome prince saves the beautiful princess and they live happily ever after?
But not me.
My earliest childhood memory consists of a black granite head-stone beneath a lone oak tree, the picture of a howling wolf carved deeply into the smooth face of the monument. Kneeling in front, I would trail my fingers across the letters etched into its smooth cool surface, and although I couldn't yet read, I knew what the letters spelled.
He told me.
I have no memories of my mother, but he tells me I look like her. I've seen pictures in our house and always wondered how he could think so. Her hair was brown, while mine is coal black. She had the most startling green eyes I've ever seen. Mine are blue.
But, to say my childhood without a mother wasn't happy would be a far cry from the truth. My days were filled playing dress up and having tea parties with my dolls just like any other little girl. I caught fireflies at dusk, keeping them in a jar beside my bed at night and then setting them free at daybreak. I played hide-and- seek in the dark shadows beneath the dusk to dawn light and searched for earthworms beneath rocks and logs for fishing. I had snowball fights and built forts in the woods, never realizing for a moment that I was missing a mother.
I had him.
He took care of me, spending every moment doing everything and anything my young child's brain could create or imagine. From a young age, I knew he wasn't my father, but it didn't matter. Our closeness was not forged from the ties of blood, and there was no one I could have loved more. The Alpha of our pack, he was strong and intimidating, but I rarely saw that side. He was caring and fatherly, disciplining me when I needed it, but never failing to remind me how much he loved me.
The pack called him Jeremy.
I called him Dad.
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