Growing up, I was not your average teenager, though I did my share of idiotic teenage things. I put my life in jeopardy more than I care to remember. I made many mistakes, which began my descent onto a dark, destructive path. I mixed with the “wrong crowd”, did the “wrong things”. I shudder at the thought of what could have happened to me. In reality, I should be dead.

My life underwenta drastic change one day, at the age of 19. Looking back, I know it’s what saved me and I’ll never forget that day for as long as I live.

It was September of 1995. I was living at home with my mother in this huge, old house in the city. We were in the middle of an unusually hot summer that seemed to last forever. We had one tiny air conditioner and my mother was gracious enough to allow me to use it in my room. Her reason for this was simple. I was her baby, her only child, and mothers give up their comforts for their children.

We were less than a week into the month when my momentous day occurred. Though the day was sweltering outside, from where I sat, the weather was the least of my concern. I was facing my newly changed life right in the eyes.

They were a beautiful set of eyes too, the average infant blue. In my heart, average was far from the word I was thinking. I thought of them as heavenly blue, like the sky spread above me, above the tiny person who saved me from the plight of my previous mistakes. This tiny creature was my gift from heaven, my guardian angel made human.

Her skin was silky smooth and a beautiful peach color. I struggled to remember seeing skin so flawless and so perfect on another human being. Her hair, what little she had, was strawberry blonde. Ten tiny fingers curled into fists that she kept near her face. She radiated with warmth so endearing, I didn’t want to put her down in fear of losing the peaceful feeling holding her brought to me.

As I cradled her in my arms, I could feel how delicate she was. Awarded the consequential task of protecting her, I took the challenge to heart and vowed to her and God that I would not let them down. But in reality, she protected me. She saved me from the horrible life I was bringing upon myself; saved me from death and destruction. She was my light in the darkness.

Admiring her precious face, my heart filled with such a powerful love, it brought tears to my eyes. I thought I knew all about love, thought I knew what it meant to love someone. I didn’t. I knew nothing about real love until this tiny miracle, swaddled in a blanket in my arms, came into my life. I understood why my mother gave up things for me.

My grandmother always talked about unconditional love, and that one day I would find it. I didn’t realize how true her words were until I gazed into the face of my daughter.

She is eighteen today. I’ve been gifted eighteen years of love and laughter, anger and tears, highs and lows. But I’d never change a second of it. Not for anything in this world.

Even though she has grown into a young lady who is caught up in her own little world, she will always be the center of mine. I don’t tell her often enough how much she means to me or how she changed my life for the better. I don’t think I can express that level of love in words and do my feelings justice.

I hope that one day she will experience the type of happiness that having her gave me; that one day she will know firsthand the depths of a mother’s love.