by Shelly Preszler

It’s five o’clock somewhere and my phone doesn’t ring. It’s perched quietly on the kitchen counter buried beneath today’s newspaper and yesterday’s cookie crumbs. It will remain silent because she’s moved on to bigger and better things.

She used to call many evenings around five, and when I’d answer, a perky little voice on the other end would ask, “Whatcha cooking for supper?” Like a short order cook at a local diner I’d rattle off tonight’s specials: roast beef, leftovers, or on desperate evenings, cold cereal.

Morgan and Katie, rock climbing in their younger years.

Morgan and Katie, rock climbing in their younger years.

When my daughter was home they used to play her mom and I against one another. They’d call each home and then decide who offered the better meal. While my meat loaf was no match to her mother’s lamb chops, if I was making chicken alfredo, we all knew who would be setting the extra spot at the table.

We moved in to the neighborhood seven years ago and were delighted to find another girl the same age as our daughter, Katie, right around the corner. We met Morgan and her mom, Kellie, in their driveway that summer. Since our 12-year-olds were wearing matching t-shirts, albeit in different colors, they hit it off immediately. Soon enough they were running back and forth all summer long, trading clothes, baking cookies, having sleepovers, and floating on the river.

I knew Morgan felt comfortable at our home during one summer evening when we called a Preszler family meeting about the chaotic conduct of our kids. Without missing a beat, Morgan slid her chair up to the table too. I smiled to myself and laughed; too amused to tell her to go home.

My daughter felt just as at home at the Pierce residence too. Growing up in a noisy home of six kids she could actually find peace and solace there. Morgan was somewhat of an only child as her two older siblings had left the nest years ago. Their family took our daughter on vacations that were fabulous and quieter than a Suburban packed with peanut butter sandwiches, sticky fingers, and wet wipes. Expanding her palate and horizons at the same time…

During those tough teenage years my daughter would lament on how Kellie actually understood her and made her feel loved. In one moment of shopping she even declared, “For goodness sake! At least Morgan’s mom has some fashion sense.”

When Morgan’s house became too quiet she would meander around the corner to watch our youngest kids fight and have my son, Joseph, pester her as only an annoying little brother could do. Many late night games of Monopoly were pursued over our kitchen table with our daughter mysteriously winning them all, hmmm?

Katie left for college a year before Morgan. Imagine how heart warming it was for me to discover that Morgan still wanted to come over and study with our daughter Elizabeth, bug Joseph, and bake cookies.

It’s been a joy being a part of her life as a confirmation sponsor and praying for as if she was one of my own. I guess the term I’ve heard people use for this is “bonus child.”
One day I was visiting with another mom about how we were going to miss Morgan this next year and she remarked, “Oh you have a “bonus kid” too?” She talked about how she truly missed some of her kid’s friends now that they moved on to college. Then she said it, “You know, they almost become like one of your own.” How true!

I remember attending the girls’ first cross-country meet four years ago in Dickinson. We were all watching the runners come over the hill one by one and everyone tried to guess whom the front-runner in the race was. A young girl with a long ponytail was running way out ahead. When we realized it was Morgan, her mom and I turned to each other and yelled, “It’s Morgan!” I screamed for that kid as if she was my own! Then I couldn’t help but wipe away a tear, as I was so darn proud of that girl.

Go ahead Morgan, keep on running on ahead to bigger and better things, but as you graduate and move on, always remember there will be one more pair of hands cheering for you back at home.

Shelly Preszler resides in Mandan with her family where there’s always an extra spot at the table.