"I often hear about how childhood is the happiest time in a person's life. Maybe it's true, but for other people. Not me. For me, childhood was constant suffering. I felt like I had a huge weight on my chest and I couldn't breathe. I hated every moment. I knew there was a better way of being. I could see it around me. It was just so far away.
I can't clearly remember my own mother. She left when my younger brother was born. In my head, she's a dark silhouette against the open door. My dad couldn't cope with three little children. He had a serious physical disability and needed constant help around the house. For a while, we had our grandma take care of us, but she was too old to handle all three of us. When all options had been explored, my father finally agreed to send us to an orphanage.
I hated the orphanage. It was a damp cold building with dirty walls and large sleeping rooms. Everything in it was big and distant. People were coming and going. I never tried to remember faces.
One day, the three of us were told we'd be going to SOS Children's Village Tbilisi. I said I wasn't going. What would this place be if not worse? Things surely had never got better for us in the past. My brothers kept quiet. The older one was often beaten by the other boys. He looked at me and said he'd go anywhere as long as no one hit him. I then agreed.
I will never forget my first day. We came in worn out clothes, had dirty faces and messy hair. When I got out of the car, I saw children running around, playing games, laughing, talking, singing, shouting, having fun. We walked past them and everyone said hi.
We were taken to one of the houses. A lady with short hair opened the door. The smell of food came from inside the house. My stomach roared. We walked in and saw three other children. They all said welcome and then sang us a song. They giggled and invited us to eat.
One of them turned to the lady and called her "mom'. I was jealous. My mother had left before I learned to say the word. I have never called anyone "mom". The man who brought us said that he had to leave. He said he'd come around to check on us soon and wished us luck in our new home and with our new family.
I was shocked. "New family"? This woman and these children were supposed to be our family? But, how? The lady told us her name and said we can call her by it if we want. My older brother asked what the others call her and they all screamed "mom". He said he would, too. My younger brother also said that. I was silent. We ate, had showers, picked our rooms and went shopping for some new clothes.
When I went to bed that night, the lady came to wish me good night. I asked her if I have to call her mom. She said only if I wanted to. She said that she was there to take care of us, to make sure we're safe and secure, that we're healthy and have our teeth brushed, that we're loved. She stroked my hair and kissed my cheek good night. At that moment I felt sleepy. As I was falling asleep, I heard myself say "good night, mom".
From this moment on, I started learning what a mother is. Mother is security, family warmth, mother is stability, mother is tenderness, mother is a warm meal, the reprimand for the broken vase, mother is the smile when I get good grades, mother is knowing all our secrets, mother is the wrinkle of care, mother is affection, mother is love. Mother is a gentle hand in my hair and a warm kiss good night. Mother is the most beautiful word in the world and I love saying it."
The author dedicated the text to her SOS mother Tamar from SOS Children's Village Tbilisi.