A/N This is the last chapter of this one, but I do have some other plans. Thanks for reading this!
"I will trade Jesus for Jude on the way home tonight." Lena said as they walked to the cars.
"Why would you want to trade your Little Man for anyone? I thought he was your boy?"
"He is our boy. I just thought you and your mom might need some reconciliation. Jude is very good at sensing that and facilitating it. Aren't you, Jude?" Lena asked when she saw Jude approaching them.
"Yes, but Mama could we not tell Mom about all of it…."
"Wait, not tell Mom about what, Jude?" Stef asked suspiciously.
He sighed. "Mama and Gram were fighting. I remembered how you guys apologized and made things right after your fight. So, I had to get closer to Mama and Gram, but I was all the way at the back of the van. All I did was take off my seatbelt and move up to right behind the front seats…"
"And got yourself in the middle of an adult discussion where you had no business being." Lena took a deep breath and looked back at her wife. "I appreciated his efforts with my mother and me, but I didn't like him unbuckling and wandering the car. I told him that you could bring a movie from work about the importance of wearing a seatbelt at all times. The two of you can bond tomorrow night while you watch it." Jude gave Lena a disappointed look even though he knew his moms shared everything. Then he joined his brothers and sisters.
"I would like nothing more than to impart that knowledge on our boy. At least that will keep the TV busy from the others." Stef commented. "Did you know that Callie and Jesus watch horror films in the middle of the night sometimes? Blood, violence, and all when we think they are sleeping. Speaking of which, if you making a car trade, I will want one also. I will give you Callie for Mariana."
"Great. I am okay with that switch. We can start taking the power cord for the DVD player upstairs at night. That should make it stop."
"We truly have great kids, Baby. I wouldn't ever permanently trade any of them for anything."
The rides home were all but silent. After the long day everyone was exhausted. All three of the kids in Lena's car put in ear buds. Both of the ones in Stef's car almost immediately went to sleep. It seemed wrong to stop for a late dinner, but both moms knew their kids would be hungry before going to sleep for the night. Neither wanted to cook.
Lena wasn't fond of fast food, so she picked an Italian place she knew the kids loved. When the car stopped the kids seemed to automatically wake up and stretch. Jude and Jesus were excited by seeing they were going to eat. The others not as much.
"I am not very hungry. Could I just wait in the car?" Mariana whined. "This pasta is going to be full of carbs anyway…"
"I could just stay with her and sleep more." Callie added.
"Or I could just drive the three of us home while you guys eat. That way we could get our showers over before everyone else gets home. It is a school night after all." Brandon also tried.
"No, everyone needs to eat something. We will have plenty of time for showers when we get home. It is only eight."
"We could just eat the sandwiches left over from this morning, Mama. There were three of those and three of us."
"Not happening and that is final. You know what will happen if you keep arguing, yes?" Stef asked with her eyebrows raised.
All three quietly walked toward the restaurant to join the others. Once inside, everyone ordered. Callie and Mariana decided they could split something. As they woke up a little more, they also realized their mothers were correct that they were actually hungry.
Stuart suggested on the way out that he would drive the van with all five kids while the moms rode with their moms. Everyone adjusted seats again and soon they were on the way home. Now that the kids were full, they were back being talkative and animated in the car. Stuart enjoyed their company. He felt like he didn't have enough moments like these.
They all pulled up at the house. Stef met the kids getting out of the car. "It is a school night and I would like to get as many people through the shower as possible tonight. Jude, you need to shower first, Bud, because you need to go to bed first. Other than that, you all can work it out among yourselves."
Jude groaned a little, but then went into the house and got into the kids' shower. Brandon got into the moms' shower. While Sharon was downstairs talking with Dana, Stef, and Lena, Callie snuck up to her room and grabbed a shoebox out of her dresser. She then went into her mothers' room and found a piece of ribbon to tie around the box. Callie carefully placed the box in the corner of the room where it would be ready for later.
When Jude got out of the shower, Jesus got in next. Brandon was soon out and Callie took his place. When she came out, Stef and Lena were in their room and the time seemed right. "Um, Moms, I have something else for you. If you could wait just a minute, I think Jude should be here, too."
"Callie Bug, you have already given us the best day ever. You really don't need to do anything else. We love you just for being you."
"Thanks, but let me go get Jude." Callie found him in his pajamas brushing his teeth. As soon as he was finished she grabbed him. "We have one more present for our moms, Baby. I am giving them the box. Is that okay?"
Jude smiled at this sister and willingly went with her. "Of course it is okay, Callie. They are our moms now. We probably should have given it to them a long time ago."
Callie entered the room without knocking since she left the door open earlier. She grabbed her box from the corner of the room and set it down between Stef and Lena. "This is for you guys from Jude and me." Callie said nervously.
Both moms looked at the battered old shoebox hesitantly. Lena untied the ribbon and let Stef lift the lid. Inside, the box was filled with pictures, letters, and other documents from Jude and Callie's first years of life. "Last night you ask if there were more pictures. All the rest are right here in this box." Callie started picking up some of the pictures from the top. "This is Jude and me on my first day of school. My mom braided my hair that day sort of like you do. This one is my mom with me on the day Jude was born. And here is me as a baby. I think that is Donald holding me."
"I love that picture of you when you were a baby! Look at your hair! Such a precious baby… I wish we had gotten you right then, Bug." Stef commented as she pulled her daughter closer.
"But you wouldn't have been ready for me then. You would have had baby Brandon and not been looking to adopt another baby. When I was born, you and Mama weren't even together yet. Plus, I wouldn't have been ready to leave my birth mom, either. I didn't quite get ten years with her, but I wouldn't trade those years for anything."
"You are right, Bug." Stef held up a piece of paper with very little writing on it. "What's this?"
"I am not actually sure, but I have always thought it was going to be a letter to her parents. I found it on my mom's desk when we were leaving the house the last time. It has her handwriting on it so I kept it."
"I see. Is this your mom and dad's wedding license, Cals?" Lena asked looked at another piece of paper.
"Well, my mom and Donald's wedding license, yes. They were married just a few months after I was born." Callie thought for a moment. "I had never thought about it before, but I guess she couldn't marry Donald without her parent's permission until she was seventeen. I guess that makes sense. Also, we all know now that my father was someone else…."
"DNA doesn't make family, Sweetheart. We have built our family on love." Lena patted Callie's arm a little and pulled Jude closer. "Donald raised you and that made him your dad."
"How come he gave up his rights to me when he didn't even have them to give? Why didn't he tell us the first time he came to the house that he knew that he wasn't my father? Why did my mom never tell me the truth? Why didn't social services find my birth father before I went into the system? He was on my birth certificate!"
"Well, Honey, I am not sure if we can ever answer those questions. I would guess that Donald at least sort of thought he did have rights to you. He did raise you, like we said. You have his last name. I guess your paternity was not questioned when you went into the system and therefore they didn't go looking for another dad. As for your mother, it would be hard to tell your young child the truth on something like this. I imagine if she had lived longer she would have told you at some point. She thought she had more time."
Callie nodded and snuggled more into Stef as Lena spoke. Jude was practically on Lena's lap by now. "My mother did love me. I can see it in the pictures. Through every home we have been in, I have kept all of these things in this box. Whenever I am unsure about whether or not I was ever loved, I looked at the pictures to see my mother's face again. They gave me hope. That was another reason I had to go back for Jude my first night here; I had to leave the box with him."
"I can see that, Love Bug. I am glad you shared these pictures with us tonight. I would like to make a few copies of them before I give your box back if that's alright."
"No, Mom, I would like copies of some of the pictures back at some point and maybe some of the other papers, but the box is for you guys. I don't need it anymore."
"Callie, we talked about this last night. Having a connection to your birth mom is not a problem, in fact it is healthy. We are not here to replace her, we know we could never do that."
"I know, Mama, but I want you to have our past. Like I said, I used to look at those pictures and try to remember my mother and remember what it felt like to be loved. Now, I don't need the pictures to know that I am loved. I can just look at you and Mom." Callie looked at both of them again. "Last night you offered to get a frame for Jude's picture. I would like a frame for one, too, if that is okay."
Lena once again had some silent tears. "Of course, Baby. We can frame as many as you want." She thought for a moment. "How about if we get some copies made of these pictures and then we could work together to make a scrapbook for both you and Jude? We could write down some of the stories you remember about your birth family."
"You mean just you and me? I thought scrapbooking was one of those things you did when you wanted to be alone. Why would you share that with me?"
"It is an activity I usually do alone, but I thought it would be nice to scrapbook with my oldest daughter. If you want to, that is. I think you would be best to work with your pictures and you know your stories. Plus, after your outburst with my daddy this morning you are going to be grounded for at least two weeks longer. That should give us plenty of time to get started… What do you say, Bug?"
"I would love to scrapbook with you, Mama. Especially seeing how I will have a lot of extra time on my hands with being grounded and all." Callie gave Lena a small smile.
"Come over here and say good night, Cals. Then you need to go get the power cord to the Blu-ray player downstairs and bring it back up to us to prevent any temptation you or Jesus might have to watch a movie tonight."
Callie giggle a little and crawled away from Stef. She put her arms around Lena and received a kiss to her forehead. Stef caught her feet and drug her back over for another hug and kiss. The moms then turned to Jude and put him into a Mama sandwich before sending him to his room for the night.
After their two newest kids left, the moms continued going through the box from Callie and Jude. Knowing that this beat up shoebox represented Callie. This Mother's Day they received the best gift of all when she decided to be theirs.