I lifted the foreign object to my nose and took a whiff. The stench burned my naive little nose hairs. The smell of foreign chemicals permeated my senses. I quickly threw the object to the ground and pinched my nose in disgust and disappointment.
The slender shape of the object intrigued me in the first place. It was made of glass, something I’d only seen in windows and cups, this material peaked my curiosity. It was just a few inches long. It was cylindrical like a straw but suddenly bulbed out at the end, with a bowl like dip in the top of the bulb. It looked like maybe once upon a time it was a pretty. My innocent nature assumed the black streaks through the tube were dirt.
The stench of the black tar led me to realize it most certainly was not dirt, but a foreign chemical that was completely distasteful instead. It was a crack pipe. My delicate 6 year old fingers just discovered what drug resin looked and smelled like.
I continued my journey to school, picked up the pace a little bit to make it on time. I was too young to judge time or distance, but the walk felt like forever. I was walking to an inner city school on the outskirts of Detroit. I avoided eye contact and conversation with strangers, just as I was instructed. My big brother was there to protect me from the big bad guys. He was a whole year older than I, but he was always at least 10 years wiser than his age. He made me feel safe. After mom left dad, he became the man of the house. I respected him.
I shake my head, the memory dissipates into the air. I check the rear view mirror, then the side mirrors, to ensure my wandering mind hadn’t cost me any traffic incidents. “Are you picking me up after school today?” Her little doe eyes met mine. They were darker than her fathers, a beautiful mix of amber and onyx, swirled to create the perfect shade of brown. Although round, the corners had a slight downward turn, making them absolutely exquisite. Her skin bore the perfect shade of caramel and cream. In the summer it became an incredible, dark, exotic shade of brown, hence the name Melanie, “dark beauty.”
“Yes, baby, I’ll be here to pick you up after school today” I replied tenderly. I am comforted by the wood grain steering wheel of the expensive SUV I now owned…as if nice things are going to make up for the lack of things in yesteryear. Driving in the pickup line of school gives me this sense of security, a sense of duty to my children and family. The mundane makes me feel needed.
When I think back to my days of walking to school and finding crack pipes, maybe I am a tad overprotective. Maybe I’m totally justified, knowing what lurks on the streets…even if they are the manicured kind with a nice HOA, and a community welcome sign…even if they are fenced in streets. I know what lurks beyond the surface of beautiful.
Parenthood is often times a dreadful balance of good and bad, right and wrong, deciding whether to control or expose. I’m always asking myself if I went to far, if I didn’t go far enough, am I enough? Am I good enough to be entrusted with these beautiful little lives? Certainly I am not worthy. Somebody throw me a life ring.
Being a mother is balancing repressed memories of yesteryear with present day situations. It’s battling that trigger in silence when the little one asks to walk to school and all I can say is no because I want to protect that that little girl inside of me.
Parenting is playing tug of war between yesterday and today…between where I end and they begin…between what was and what is. What I’ve learned though, is that when I stop tugging, and I let go of the rope…that’s where freedom begins and the magic truly happens.