My holiday break in my senior year held the biggest Christmas surprise I’ve ever received. The decorations weren’t down, the New Year had yet to begin…and the last half of my final year in high school had yet to commence. My mother, bless her heart, came home from her late shift at the bar in which she tended, and told me that we were being evicted from the apartment.
I was the final kid. The one who kept her from the freedom that she wanted. Or that was my take. I was as close to done as any of us. My older brother and sister had both dropped out of high school and were floundering in a smoky world of God only knew what. But I was determined to finish high school. I remember floating into the halls of Auburn High worrying about where I was going to live. I had a job at a local restaurant. I made good tips… but I was seventeen. I wanted to finish school, wanted to go to college. I wanted to be everything my siblings weren’t. Everything my mother wasn’t.
I was a theater geek. I had friends and teachers who adored me.
My good friend Whitney had a mother with a heart of gold and she offered me a place to stay. Judy may not know it, but she taught me many things in the short time I stayed with her and her husband. They were Mormon, and since my mother change religions with the preference of her men, my grounding of the ever after was nil. I lived with Whitney and her parents for a few months, and then I decided, in my young teenage head, that I was going to move in with my girlfriends. I stopped paying the tiny amount of money Judy asked me to pay in an effort to come up with my part of the down payment for an apartment. Now before anyone reads this and asks why an adult would ask for money from me… stop… She was right. I had never truly learned the value of responsibility or following up with my promises. My mother made a habit of making promises that she never kept. And in a few short months, Judy taught me that not everyone would accept that. I moved from Judy’s home to another friend’s house my last three months of school.
Jennifer, and her family, taught me different lessons. But I’ll leave that for another post.
The bottom line, I didn’t live in my parent’s home when I finally accepted my diploma. I didn’t quite have the family structure of a normal life that last year before I was supposed to be on my own.
I didn’t have normal at all.
For many years I’ve wondered how I can repay those families for taking me in, for helping a teenage girl with the deck stacked against her, make it through school.
I realized I couldn’t.
Only now, many, many… okay, MANY years later, I’m sitting on my front porch writing this with my best friend’s son sitting on an opposite chair. He’s here because they both are. You see, my good friend has been a housewife for 27 years, given up her whole everything to be the best mom she could be. Her soon-to-be ex, didn’t make the same commitment. Bottom line, she had nowhere to go, so she is here. And her son, a senior in high school, has lived here since right after Christmas of last year.
And I realize…so many years after I graduated from Auburn High, that I don’t need to give back to Whitney’s Parent’s…or Jennifer’s parent’s…
I just need to give back.