Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Teen Mom Story-Waiting for Maria Feb. 21, 2012

Waiting for Maria

Since the day of my birth, I’ve been waiting for Maria to start acting like my mom.
            I began waiting when Maria was 18 and I was born. I waited for her to take me in her arms and bring me home from the hospital with her. Instead she ran off to Jackson, Wyoming with a boyfriend, not my dad, and left her parents, Anna and Jake, to take me home and care for me. I guess she knew they would.
            Eleven months later, Anna and Jake had a son, my Ubncle Christopher. My grandparents had their hands full. They too were waiting for Maria to come home and be my mom, and one day she did. She found a place to live on her own. “As soon as I get on my feet, Lucy, you can come and live with me,” she said. But Maria never kept a job for more than a few weeks.
            When Anna was ready to return to her job at LaBelle’s Department Store, she asked Maria to babysit for Christopher and me. I was too small to remember the days when my mother took care of Christopher and me while her mother went to work, but I am glad to know that she did that for us.
            I remember thinking, when I was a little older, just how beautiful my mom was. I loved her creamy smooth skin, green eyes, and thick, flowing brown hair. My eyes are dark brown too, and people say we look alike.
            My grandparents treated me like their own child, and along with Christopher, I called them Mom and Poppa. No one ever kept from me the fact that Maria was my mother, but when I was three, I was confused about the mom word and what it meant. How many moms could a person have, I wondered? What made a mom a mom. I had to wait to find out.
            I’d been waiting for Maria to tell me it was time to come and live with her. Anna and Jake were kind and loving, but something inside me said I needed to be with Maria. I waited until I was five. Then one day I asked.  “Mom, is it time for me to live with you now?”
            She had to think about it for what seemed like a long time to me. Finally she said, “Yes. I think it is time.”
            And so, I moved in with her. I did lots of waiting when I lived with Maria. I waited for her to take me to school, and to pick me up. I waited for her to buy me clothes I needed, and to take me to the doctor when I was sick. Maria always said she’d do these things for me, but it was hard for her to get them done.
            I remember looking forward to visiting Anna, Jake and Christopher, and my great grandmother Melendez. My great grandmother took me to church with her on Sundays and she made sure I was confirmed before I was ten.
            Sometimes I didn’t want to go back to Maria’s house because of Tim. He and Maria lived together for a long time, but they fought, and sometimes he hit her. I hated it when that happened. As their fighting got worse, they would not let me go to my friends’ houses to play, I think they were afraid of what I might tell my friends.
            The longest time I ever waited for Maria was a few days before my tenth birthday. She and Tim had just had a huge fight and he left. This time he did not come back. I admit, I was glad. I thought that maybe now Maria would stay home at night and get up in the morning before I left for school. I hated it most when I was home alone at night.
            “Mom,” I begged. “Please be home when I get home from school. I hate being alone, and most of all, I hate going to bed when I’m alone. I know I’m almost ten, and it’s silly, but I’m scared of the dark.”
            “Okay, honey, I’ll be home when you get home,” she promised. But it hardly ever happened.
            That is why, when she disappeared, I didn’t even know it for two days. I got up in the morning, went to school, came home and went to bed. I kept doing that until the food ran out. Then I called my grandparents, because I didn’t know what else to do.
            Jake came over to our house with a bucket of spaghetti and I dug into it like I hadn’t seen food in a week. Spaghetti had never tasted so good.
            “Come on Lucy,” Jake said when I’d finished eating. “Pack up some clothes. You’re coming to our house.”
            Every day I waited for a call from Maria. In a week it finally came, and by then I had a hard time speaking to her. I could not imagine what she had been thinking. Didn’t she care about me, her only kid?
            I didn’t understand her behavior then, and I’m not sure I do now. But I do know that by this time Maria had developed a crack cocaine habit. I know that taking drugs alters people’s minds. That does not excuse her, but it helps me to understand a little.
            Maria did not come home. Instead she went I’m not sure where, pursuing her habit and the money she needed to maintain it. A year or so later my grandparents discovered that she had been withdrawing money from their bank account. She took so much that they had no choice but to press charges against her. I fell apart because I was so torn between worrying about my mom and loyalty to the grandparents who were taking care of me.
            I managed to graduate from elementary school and move on to junior high school. My attendance had never been very good, yet I was a good student when I was present. But now I felt a great anger inside and it had to go somewhere. I learned to fight and fight well. I fought for myself, and I fought to defend my friends. I fought so many times that I got kicked out of school permanently.
            Because I could not stay in the regular public school system, I attended a school at the Attention Home where classes were small and the staff watched over you as if you were a criminal. My grades were good there.
            By the time I was ready to enroll in Triumph, the alternative high school, Maria had finished serving time for her crime and was living at home with us. I’d waited so long for her to come home. By now I looked so much like her and she still looked so young, that lots of people thought we were sisters.
            We started going out in the afternoons, after I got home from school We drank, and partied, and got high together, and often we didn’t get home until the early morning hours. Even so, I’d get up at six every morning and go off to school while Maria slept. That routine didn’t last for long. My attendance, and then my grades, began to slip. I wasn’t fooling anyone. A school counselor asked Anna and Jake to come to school for a talk. Maria was not invited.
            “Lucy, don’t ruin your life,” Anna said to me. “There isn’t much I can do to help your mom to change, but I refuse to watch you follow in her path.”
            Grandma didn’t often talk like that. She gave me something to think about, and when I was through thinking, I told Maria that I wasn’t going to go out with her any more.
            “Okay,” Maria said. “I’ll miss you.”
            In a few days she was gone again, and in a few weeks, we learned that she was in California. By that time I had discovered that half the contents of my jewelry box had disappeared with her. Grandma understood. It wasn’t the first time Maria had stolen family jewelry.
            Now, while a part of me waited for Maria to come back, another, bigger part knew that I had to get on with my life. Louis and I met when I was 15 and he 17. It took a while before we realized that this was more than a casual relationship. I was the one who realized it first. He was the guy I wanted. I called his house so often that I drove his mom crazy. She made it painfully obvious that she didn’t like me hanging around with her son.
            By the time I was 16, despite the fact that I’d been careful and was on birth control, Louis and I had become parents. Little Juan became the light of our lives. After she became a grandmother, Louis’s mother softened up and decided I wasn’t so bad after all.
            I returned to school after Juan was born, but I soon got sick of hassling with the administration about my credits. I quit and decided to enter a program where I could work on my GED.
            When Juan was two, his little brother, Isiah arrived—a second testimony to failed birth control. I’d always said I didn’t want children, not ever, and now I had two sons. When Louis and I married last spring, we did so holding Juan and Isiah in our arms. Anna and Jake welcomed us all into their home where we lived until two months ago when we were able to move into our own town home.
            Louis has a good job driving a truck for the local Budweiser distributor. He dropped out of high school before I did, but he has plans to work on his GED. As I began to work on mine, I surprised myself with a perfect score on the reading test. I squeaked by the math test with a barely passing grade. I’m so proud to have my GED. In the fall, I begin college classes and plan to earn an associates’ degree in radiography.
            I’m nearly 20 now, but I still don’t like to be alone. At long last, I have given up waiting for Maria, but I’m still scared of the dark. The dark doesn’t scare my boys, though. They like to tease their mom for being a scaredy cat. Maria missed out on phase one of motherhood when she left me in the hospital hours after I was born. She didn't come back in time to catch up. I waited and waited for a mom she could never be. But Maria taught me to put my kids first. To give them unconditional love. To value and nurture my relationship with Louis.
         Because they are her parents, Anna and Jake will always be there for Maria, whatever happens in her life. They are the people who taught me what being a parent means. And that confusing mom word? Now that I am one, the meaning has become completely clear.   is home from California now. At age 38 she looks as young and beautiful as she ever did. But I don't wait for her any more.          

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