Dancing in the Lily

The children are on my mind constantly. I love them and every day brings me an emptiness that I can’t fill. Today, I feel sad, and at the same time I am pleased that once again I have dreamed about them. I called mom today and she said that the people at the grave side said that if your adult children don’t take responsibility for the $500.00 left on Mr. Maitland’s burial plot, that they will have to exhume his body and move him by the river in the marsh land. They didn’t bother telling anyone but mom that we even owed the money. What a slap in the face and certainly not anything that mom needed to be concerned about now. She is too young for social security, and too old to find work since she hasn’t ever had to work a public job.

I wrote this back in 1989 and it was one of the memories that I had forgotten. It amazes me how people can treat others and still call themselves compassionate. My mother lived a hard life, but she was the type of person who was nonjudgmental. She loved people and if you made mistakes she would still love you and pray for you. You could always talk to her, because she would never criticize you.

When I wrote this I was still trying to get used to being married and living a normal life. My life had been in such a turmoil for so many years, that normal was foreign to me. I expected at any moment to wake up and it all be a dream. The love in our home, the provision, the peace, the safety, would all vanish like those speech bubbles in the cartoons. POOF. But it didn’t vanish, and now over twenty-four years later we are still together and serving the Lord.

My life wasn’t always this happy. I remember a time when there were three children to raise as a single mom. I remember the hours spent walking to school or work, and the helplessness I felt at not knowing if the children were safe. It wasn’t uncommon for a headstart van to drop them off at the apartment early, without even knowing if I had made my three hour walk from community college or not. They called one time and said that they were bringing my three year old daughter home because she was running a fever and they didn’t want the other children to get sick. When I told them that I was at school and there was no way that I could get back in time, they said that I had to make arrangements because they were bringing her home.

I panicked. I ran as much as I could for what would usually take me three hours walking. It was at that point that I felt so lost and vulnerable. How could God allow this to happen? When I did get home, I found my daughter at the neighbor’s door, outside, unsupervised. She was just sitting on the door stoop waiting alone. I felt so helpless, that all I could do was hold her close and cry. Why? All I wanted to do was get an education so I could have a better job to raise my little family, and I was so tired of fighting the system, so I worked at Rose’s Department store to avoid having to depend on anyone for help.

I would leave every day for my job at Rose’s, and before I could get down the sidewalk, I could hear my babysitter yelling. My instincts told me to walk back, no run back, to rescue my beautiful children from her verbal assaults, but I had no other options. What terrible days did they endure while I was working to provide for our little family? They may have blocked it out of their memory by now, or maybe not. It wasn’t a good environment, but what could I do?

It was all about daily survival. The Martha spirit, again, rose up in me and I compulsively cleaned everything, because I could control the cleanliness in my environment even if I couldn’t control my situation. I hated leaving my children every day, then, Alisa contracted pneumonia when she was six months old.  I hated asking for assistance, so I made the decision to only get help to pay for the hospital bill. I still remember the day that I walked into that Social Services office, with children in tow, and I am still incredulous of the answer they gave me when I asked: “we’re sorry, but we can’t help you unless you quit your job.”

Really? As long as I had struggled to stand on my own two feet? So much for digging my way out of the system: to be self-sufficient. You will do things that you never thought possible when it comes to raising your children. Again, I was not given any choices. I quit my job and for two years slipped into chronic depression on welfare. I was angry at the System, at their father, and sometimes even at God, but God was all I had to turn to, so I poured myself wholeheartedly into serving the Lord.

He was the only one who never failed me. He sustained me and by some miracle I started to climb out of the depression and have hope in spite of my circumstances, until the day that I had to move to another apartment. It wasn’t convenient for me to get to church, and once again I had to depend on others to pick us up. I felt all of the old bitterness and hurt come flooding back, as I used to wait at the door looking out of the window for a ride to church for the night service, only to find out that they weren’t going to come. Then, one day, they stopped coming by altogether. I refused to put myself or my children through that humiliation ever again, so we stopped going to church. We sang the songs, and read the bible, and prayed at home together.

I can’t help but think about the children. At the time, I didn’t know where they were because I had released them for adoption to give them a fighting chance to get off this course of life that leads to despair. I lived in alcoholism and the last thing that I wanted for my children was to follow in their granddaddy’s and in my footsteps. I wasn’t an alcoholic, but I had seen so much heartache that I felt that I wanted to spare them from the pain that I was going through. In some way if they didn’t see me putting myself down, they wouldn’t hear the negative all the time. I wrote,


Life gets more complicated every day. When will I stop being mother and start being daughter?

I wish a thousand times that I had been more sensitive and aware of the life that my mother was living without Dad, but I was consumed with making a fresh start, being someone important and respected, but at what cost? I was just a daughter who was rebellious and self-centered and spiraling out of control even when I felt that my life was finally coming together. I was the one who looked in the mirror and saw the sadness behind the beaming smile, there was a secret life of tragedy, longing for hope and peace, never quite satisfied, never allowing myself to feel the joy that life has to offer: after all, why did I deserve to be happy after all that I had done?


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