As I sit here looking at you confined to this room I am deeply saddened. You don’t look like the same girl from the Southend. Now your clothes aren’t clean and your hair is a mess. The spark left your face and has been replaced with desperation and fear. And knowing that this is just the beginning makes this hurt even more. I cannot help but feel guilty thinking of all of the obstacles that you, a nine-year girl, will face before real healing takes place. What hurts even more is the fact that I cannot protect you from that. I am now a 37-year-old woman in a much healthier and happier space but that was not the case for many years. I want to warn you that most of our twenties and early thirties will be spent trying to unravel the mental and emotional pain that came as a result of these obstacles. I almost wish I could advise you somehow – maybe shield you from our mom’s addiction and the fear of abandonment that came with it. If I could, I would teach you that you are beautiful long before your beauty becomes validated by Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent bags hanging from your shoulders and by foreign cars carrying you to trivial destinations. If I could, I would assure you that you are worth your dad keeping his promises to come back that Christmas. You remember the one when you were seven or eight and he dropped off that huge teddy bear?
It will be decades before you see him again…
There are many other things that I want to protect your eyes, your ears, and your innocent body from, but unfortunately I can’t.
I cannot avoid you.
These issues that have haunted me for years started when I was your age. And while most little girls at this age were concerned about who their best friend is and playing double-dutch, I was anxious about our mom’s crack addition and how to avoid the girls at school joning me because of how I dressed, how I smelled, and how I looked. The people that came in and out of this house were scary and looked like zombies. I remember watching them enter and exit over and over again while my mom got thinner and thinner. Some days she would comb my hair and pretend everything was normal. I played along even though I knew better. There were rare times when we would play and spend time together, but as soon as this woman (who I now know was her dealer) came around, I was no longer a priority. Instead, I was left to my own devices. Apart of me died in this house and it would take years to be revived.
I could not understand why things around me had changed and having no one to talk to, I suppressed my emotions and instead focused on school. But good grades could not cover the fact that my beautiful, gifted, and talented mother was a full fledge crack-addict. A crack-addict. And so was my father. But he was never really in the picture so it didn’t affect me much back then.
I often grapple with whether or not I would move the same way had mom and dad been there to support and affirm me, us, throughout life. Instead, we were forced to take the more scenic route, which included being a young child trying to navigate the world with a drug-addicted parent. A world where nothing is consistent and everything is dark. Sometimes I want to erase this part of my life and be normal like “those kids.” It’s tempting to think that if I could somehow give you, my 9-year-old self, the wisdom and understanding that I have today, maybe that would ease your sorrow and heal your broken heart. But I can’t and I would not if I had the ability. Why, because if I did that, if I helped you avoid all of this trauma and pain, there is no way you would be the woman I am today. Your pain – our pain – was necessary in order to enjoy the life I have created today.