Engaged Against Her Will

My mom once called me in the middle of the night from a bar. She was pretty wasted and it was my 16th birthday. She said that she found me a man at the bar, showed him my picture, and he liked what he saw. He wanted to wish me a happy birthday. Oh, and he also wanted to see if I’d be interested in hooking up. I was 16. This man sounded like he was over 30. But my mom assured me that he was hot and she would give him my number. I was disgusted and sad. She also passed the phone to her girlfriend that she had left us for so she could wish me a happy birthday as well. Memories.

I met up with my mother for coffee the other day. I had recently been thinking a lot about trauma and how traumatic events shape different people in different ways. I knew that she had an unfortunate childhood, but I didn’t know many details. So when we met for coffee I asked about it. The nonchalant way she proceeded to describe horrifying details about years of sexual abuse by many different people surprised me. It was surprising to me because I feel that what happened to her as a child was absolutely devastating, and I feel like that devastation had a profoundly negative effect on the rest of her life. Because she never got the help that she needed, it adversely affected decisions she made as an adult and her role as a mother. For this reason, I bounce back and forth between feeling anger towards her for the poor choices she continues to make, causing more harm to my younger siblings and herself, and making excuses for her behavior.

Toward the end of the conversation, she surprises me with a “Well okay, you’re coming with me next door to meet my fiancé.” What? Your divorce from my father was just finalized last week – you sure you don’t want to give it a little time? Nah. My mom told me that her fiancé, I’ll call her Rita, had asked her a week before Valentine’s Day what she would say in response to a V-Day proposal. My mom responded that she wasn’t ready for anything like that. But Rita is persistent. Come V-Day, she popped the question. With much hesitation, my mom said “Umm… okay…” Let me also tell you that Rita is dying of cancer. She could pass any day. (My mom is currently doing radiation for her cancer.) My mom said she “doesn’t see anything long-term with Rita”… so she agreed to marry her, but refuses to set a date…

Homeless

Working with homeless children is one of the wonderful things that has enhanced my perspective on life. There are over 2,000 homeless children in the city I live in. Yet, when most people think of homelessness, they rarely picture homeless children. I’ve come to learn that homelessness is a cycle, and education is the best way to break this cycle with the children. However, public schools are not equipped to handle the unique needs of homeless children, and many times these kids just slip through the cracks. They can hardly focus on learning in school when they are uncertain if they’ll be fed that night or if they will have a place to sleep. I’ll go into more detail about this in a later post. Still, these kids are joyful and imaginative and full of love.

One day, our receptionist had just recently returned from bereavement leave, as her father had just passed away from cancer. The children adore her, so when she returned, they showered her with handmade sympathy cards. They drew pictures with crayons of her weeping over her dead father in a casket, and of her father being buried into the ground at a funeral. It was extremely touching.

As the children left that day after a swarm of holiday-themed activities, the silliest and most beautiful exchange happened. One little girl felt a special kinship with our receptionist because her father was dying, too. This particular day she was wearing a Santa hat and beard as she walked out to the bus. When she passed the receptionist, she exclaimed in her best Santa voice, ” HO HO HO! I’m gonna bring you a new DAD for Christmas. Just like the old one! To remind you of him.” And she danced out the door, leaving the receptionist in a bit of a shock.

If you met these young kids, you’d notice that there isn’t much that screams that they are homeless. Sure, they might be a little smellier than other kids, or possibly a little dirty. But they are curious, earnest, and beautiful just like other more fortunate children. It’s not their fault that they are homeless, and they deserve a chance to succeed.

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