Middle Passage: Stories of Survival
Meeting the Challenge: Unplanned Single Parenthood
“Get out! Go,” my mother yelled, as a blazing fire swept through our house within minutes. My 5-year-old brother was playing under his bed with a grill lighter when he set his mattress on fire. At 19-years-old, having been uprooted before and gazing at the smoldering skeletal remains of our home, I thought to myself, here we go again.
Earlier in my life, when I was 9-years-old, my mother worked three jobs to keep a roof over our heads and food in our stomachs. My father was hardly around. When mom was at work, I took care of the household: bathing and feeding my two younger sisters who were then ages 4 and 7 (my brother wasn’t born yet). A few years later, my mother broke her ankle and had to stop working. As a result, we were evicted from our apartment and became homeless. Eventually, my sisters and I were separated. We went to live with various family members in the Washington metropolitan area. Living the hardship we suffered without the support of our father, I knew as a youngster that I always wanted to be independent. This experience also contributed to my growing mistrust of men.
My thoughts on men began to change when my cousin, wanting to see me with a more vibrant social life, invited me to a party. There, he introduced me to his best friend, Lawrence. My initial impression was that he looked like a thug. But, as I got to know him over a few months, he turned out to be a decent guy. We dated and I became pregnant with our daughter. When she was born on August 24, 2001, I discovered true love for the first time. Having my daughter in my life is like having sunshine every day.
In the years to follow, Lawrence and I bought a house together. My nephew, then 5-years-old, came to live with us, and I loved him as my own son. Life couldn’t have been better.
One morning in 2006, I lied asleep in bed and my daughter’s father arose to head off to work, as was his routine. About an hour later, I abruptly awakened feeling a chill run through my body. I passed it off as an aftershock of a nightmare from which I had awakened, and I got up to go to work.
Being a single mom has its challenges. One of the biggest challenges has been trying to maneuver through life without support in areas ranging from finances to having meaningful companionship. But, if I could speak to all the single mothers, I would tell them: Create with your kids as many fond and pleasant memories as you can. Visit a scenic park. Go biking together. Go to the museums. Learn a language together. For yourself, join a single mother’s support group or even start one. Show your kids and show yourself that there is more to life than the struggles.
While at work, I received a call from my sister who said that she had recognized Lawrence’s car on the morning news. Then, a State Highway Patrol Officer returned one of my calls to inform me that Lawrence had been killed in a tragic car accident. He had fallen asleep at the wheel and drove under a tractor trailer. I later realized that the accident occurred at the exact moment I had been jolted awake that morning. It has been six years since Lawrence’s death and I miss him every day.