One Woman's Strength
She saved me when I was seven. Be it shock, confusion, or the mind of a young girl, I didn’t know that’s what she did. I didn’t know I was being taken away from a life of constant questioning, unknowns, and risks. I didn’t know I was being saved from an already overcrowded system of children – wards of the state – whose parents were incapable of caring for their kin, either by choice or by force.
My mother’s sister changed my life the day a wife and husband left three children – 7, 5, and 2 – parentless. They lay lifeless in a tall wicker chair in the living room, my father’s head resting in my mother’s lap like a praying child and the string of blood from my mother’s nose hanging still much like the fiery red tendrils of hair that used to dance whenever she moved. That was the day a seven year old girl said goodbye to her favorite pink Barbie radio, to her pet rabbits, to her parents’ noisy parties, to their screaming and yelling and their pushing and hitting. A seven year old girl said goodbye to a future life of recklessness the day her aunt took one and then two of her sister’s children into her home.
I didn’t know what it all meant back then. She didn’t know either, how having to feed two extra mouths meant frequent trips to the grocery store; how calming a child with nightmares would leave her groggy for work the next day; how working on multiplication and long division at the kitchen table every night equaled less grown-up time for her, but a child’s chance to catch up in school; how shopping for the perfect pair of stone-washed black denim jeans made a chubby 12-year-old feel good about her body; how buying a used four-door Ford Tempo with automatic seat belts gave a teenager freedom to drive to her first date; how supporting a young woman’s decision to change majors during college helped shaped who she is today. I know now. I’m not sure she does. We never talk about it, but she deserves to know and the world needs to hear: My aunt is my miracle. Her strength back then is my strength now.