21 years ago…and a few months, I watched you come into this world. I wasn’t ready to receive you as I was a child myself. In the next few weeks, I found the inner strength to be everything you needed me to be. I walked miles to collect aluminum cans to feed you, even as I had no food. I did it in the blistering sun with feet barely shod. I "rescued" things from the trash for you. I found a bassinet, an outfit, even a stuffed teddy. I changed your cloth diapers, held fast with only safety pins and hand washed them before hanging them to dry in the hot July southern sun. We lived like refugees in our own homeland. I had no mother nor father to help me with you, as I was abandoned long ago, before I even hit my menses.
Later, I would hop in the back of a man’s pickup truck, surrounded by men from Mexico. I, being the only female, not even 18 years of age, no legal papers to say I could work, but I begged the man so I could feed you and he allowed me to come. I carried you on my back as I picked strawberries for 50 cents a pound. No one I worked with spoke my language and none were native to this land. I felt like a stranger in my own land…but I would go on to continue to do this to feed and clothe you until a social worker helped me apply for assistance for you.
Later, my mother was called to come collect you. I was homeless you see and it was that or have you taken by strangers. I would rather hand you over to my mother than see you be without family. Notice, she didn’t come to collect me…even though I was a child as well. Eventually, I was prodded into coming back east with you…and at my mother’s insistence, I married your father. He had been paying her money since before she came to collect you I found out. He called it "child support" even though none of it made it to you until my mother took you away. I called it my bride price. My mother did as well.
I stayed married to a man I didn’t love, at first…even despised sometimes, but grew to love as a human. I stayed through the violence, the drunken nights, the drug-fueled rage, the women too. I stayed even though I knew this wasn’t good. I wanted you to know your father, unlike me. I stayed until you said he threw you into a wall after coming home from a visit at grandma’s with a huge bruise on your leg. Within 20 days we were out of state in a new home with a big backyard as you dreamt, just as our local women’s shelter advised. I worried if it was the right decision and I was assured it was time and time again by everyone around us.
Then everything seemed better. I was in college and working at home. I made so very little but I made it stretch to pay the bills. I didn’t have as much time to pay attention to you, but I hoped the sacrifices I made would pay off for you big in the future. I hoped to find a good paying job so you could go to college too. I didn’t know what you wanted to be yet, because at that age it changed every week, but I wanted to help you get there whatever it was. I wanted to be your support…the mom I always wanted and never had.
I fell in love with a man that I had known since the very first days after you were born. He promised to be a dad to you and all your siblings. He promised he would take care of you all like his own kids. He worked to help our lives get better. He was kind and patient. Eventually, we got married so that we could all be a big happy family.
Eventually, my sweet little girl started to turn into a young lady. I saw the awkward growing pains of trying on makeup, giggling about boys, wanting to have nice clothes, among other things. I also saw you were angry. You were a teen and it’s no surprise when teens are angry. I wanted to be that mom that you could talk to. I took you out for ice cream, told you I loved you, took you out to eat…just me and you. I never had enough money for a spa day or to buy you two-three outfits at a time. I wish I did…but we were still struggling financially. I tried to offer advice about proper clothing. I tried to sew your clothes, but I guess it just wasn’t enough. They were too "old fashioned". I tried to be there for you, but you never said anything other than you missed your real father.
So, I even spent thousands of dollars twice to have you and your real father spend time together. Once from a windfall, in 2009, I took all of it and traveled with you and your sisters to his house. You had such fun. I wish we could have done it more often, but it was so expensive.
After the first trip, you came home angrier. You started fibbing about stuff, like who ate the peanut butter. I figured you were upset. I asked if you wanted to talk about it, but you never wanted to. I saw beautiful poetry in your notebooks and encouraged your writing. I remembered how much I loved to write and even shared some of my old poems with you. I remember when you came and asked to enter a poetry contest. We had missed that years deadline, I said next year, I promise. I kept that promise too. I even typed out the entry to their specifications, so you could be entered properly. You made the poems and I made sure they met the specifications on font size, names, address, etc… I thought this was us connecting.
After your second trip to your father’s, you couldn’t wait to move in with him. I said no problem, at 18. Even as you were going to the bus station days after your 18th birthday, I tried not to cry. I wanted you to be happy. I wanted you to get to know your father, now that he was clean and sober. He was remarried. He was finally stable.
What you don’t know is that me, your sisters, and your brothers cried that whole afternoon after you left. I couldn’t see the road home for all the tears and had to stop for a bit. Your sister comforted me as best as a child can and I comforted her as best as a mother can…but a hole was left in our hearts.
Then we learned to live without you here every day. You never wrote. You didn’t call. Days turned into weeks. Finally, I called your father to check on you. He asked me if you had to do all the chores and then remarked you said you did. Weird…all of you children have chores I told him. He said your room was such a mess, he doubted you did all the chores. The conversation left me feeling confused.
Months went by again and I heard through the grapevine you were in trouble. Your sister’s friends mother contacted me and said you hurt her son and you would be going to court. I wished her well..although that didn’t sound like my little girl. I tried to talk to you, but every time we tried to talk…it turned into a fight. What happened to my baby? When I asked you once, you said you weren’t my baby you were a woman. I took this as a sign that you were rebelling…and I should back off.
I tried, but then you would keep reaching out to me. My family had gotten involved at this point and they begged me to always be open to you should you want to talk. I tried but it never got anywhere.
Then your biological father died. I grieved. He was too young. He might have been an asshole as a kid, but he tried to turn it around. I wanted to go to the funeral, but you insisted I was not welcome and you said your 14-year-old sister should travel 1500 miles alone to the funeral. Even after you said she could have me in the state with her, but not the funeral parlor…she decided against going. She said she wouldn’t go if I couldn’t. We stayed home crying and looking at his photos. She never got a chance to know him. She tried, but he was always too busy. She called to say Happy Father’s Day and he never called back three months before his death. She still has the dress she bought with the money he gave her for her birthday that year. Every time I remind her it doesn’t fit, she tears up and I say ok…we can keep it. The poor child will never know her father just like me and you denied her the one chance to say goodbye because you were grieving him and I was for some reason not "allowed". I never imagined my child would be this way.
At night, I think to myself I thought I raised you better than that. I cry sometimes wondering why would you be this way. I didn’t reach out to you and for a while, you didn’t reach out to me. Life was peaceful. In the back of my mind, I wondered about you. Were you in college like you told me a year earlier? Did you have those two jobs you used to have? Then you invited me to your wedding. I was trying to be very professional…what to wear, when will it be, etc…I didn’t want to argue, but in the end…we did. Then my sister texted me and wanted to know why I was "pestering" you about going to the wedding. I sent her a copy of my entire texted conversation and she sent me a copy of her entire texted conversation with you, and we caught you in so many bold-faced lies. I was hurt and angry. My sister was too. I didn’t care to see you at your damn wedding then. After that, I knew you were not the child I thought you were and it broke my heart.
Still, I felt, it is my duty to keep you appraised of your family’s events. Your sister was engaged. I tried very hard to convince her to have you at her wedding. "Be the bigger person." She wouldn’t budge. Why? Why can’t my girls get along? I was at the point of tears… Your poor sister. I never knew. "Oh mamma, you don’t know…" She told me all the horrible things you said to her and had done over the years. I was so taken aback… all I could say is I understand. What more could I say? I knew you to be a liar now and this child of mine had never lied about such things to me just described a sister from hell. How could I not just accept your sister’s decision? She asked me to call you so you would know she was getting married and that you would not be invited.
I did. I kept it short and sweet. I identified myself with my full legal name. I said your sister is getting married and that we wanted you to know. You said, "Well she should have told me." I said ok and hung up. That was it. I didn’t say she was too afraid to speak to you…I didn’t say she asked me to because you had been so cruel to her…I said nothing except ok. I knew it was pointless to say more.
Not a month later, I wake up to the police at my door telling me that you had a baby and buried it in my backyard…basically that you told them you killed a child. I was in shock. I was confused yet again. I said go ahead and do whatever you wish. Now I sit here and ponder…who are you? What monster have I brought into this world?
Your poor siblings…how do I shelter them from the storm you created? God grant me strength is all I can say…they finished searching the property today. I don’t know if they will be back. All I can say is God grant me strength, I need it.