My biological father was a dedicated alcoholic. In a fit of rage against my mother, he held me by my feet, dangling in my footie pajamas, above the staircase, threatening to throw me down if my mom didn’t stop arguing with him. I’m relieved that she stopped pressing whatever issue drove him to that point. I’m sure it was something simple like him forgetting to empty the water out of the soap dish. A simple request gone haywire.
Filled with amazing love for me, my mother decided it was safest to leave him when I was 18 months old.
Mom spoke softly, “Amy, lay down it’s time to stop jumping around, you need to rest and get some sleep.”
“Why mommy? This is fun! Can we do this again tomorrow?”, I said as I was staring out the rear windshield of her car. Wasn’t this a camp out? Just another night to pass in the few weeks that we made a vehicle our home.
Living in the car was an adventure!
The two flat on White Avenue is one of my favorite homes to think about. I loved the wallpaper in my bedroom. It had huge, beautiful pink daisies on it. At least that’s how I remember it. As I recall, that house was full of fun. My mom always had a lot of friends over and the atmosphere was filled with laughter and music. Being around the partying was normal for me.
I have a beautiful, strong mother.
She always demonstrated love and provided for me as best she could. Years later, I came to realize that my mom found herself needing some reliable help, so that she could get life in order. For that reason, Paulette and Tom picked me up one night. I can remember being confused, and staring at Tom’s cowboy boots while I was sorting out the situation in my three year old mind. His boots were loud when he walked across the kitchen floor. They were taking me to live with Mom’s cousin, her husband, and their girls. I enjoyed pretending that I had sisters while I stayed with them, but I can remember missing my mom. Though we had weekend visits, happiness is a clear memory of how I felt to be reunited with my mom some months later. I wasn’t in the care of strangers, but for me, being fostered didn’t feel right.
There are some years that are a blur. I have bits and pieces of kindergarten in my mind. I attended four different schools for first grade, two in Illinois and two in California. In the midst of all of that, my mom remarried and had my sister. My sister’s father wholeheartedly took on being “dad” and though they are not married anymore, he is still Dad to me.
Although there was somebody filling the father role, I still felt some sense of disconnect, shame, and rejection. It took me many years to realize that there was nothing wrong with me. There were no concrete reasons that I shouldn’t have been loved more fully by my biological father. It took many counseling sessions, some at age 7 and more as an adult, to realize that the space that I felt in my gut, that I could never seem to fill with anything, could truly be filled.
Love that I could allow myself to receive and give willingly and freely. A gift that I could share with others. Looking back, it amazes me that even at a young age I knew somehow, to accept the love from others and thrive even when it was emotionally terrifying.
I haven’t always navigated my path well. Not thinking, over thinking, or poor decisions have occurred more often than I care to speak about. Sometimes I forget to extend myself the same grace that I give others. I am human. I choose daily to embrace myself in order to give and receive love.
I could go on and on about life’s hiccups, but it’s about the journey, not the surface of the road. Childhood, adolescence, and adulthood may have torn My jeans up a bit, but those rips don’t define me. Mistakes or circumstances didn’t give me my identity. I feel they grew my heart to experience mercy, show grace, and love beyond reason.
This capacity for love, that gratefully, is always changing, led me to grow and discover my three pillars of purpose. To bring light to others through sharing my spirit, lending my strength, and guiding them to develop a greater capacity to serve.