I don’t have a fiction post this week (it’s been a little busy). I decided this morning I wanted to post about a life changing moment. This is actually a snippet from my memoir, Fighting for a Chance to Dream. That I am editing again before I self publish. This was spurred on by a book that I began this morning called Supersurvivors: the surprising link between suffering and success.
In November 1996, I accepted I was pregnant. I knew before then, somewhere in my mind. I just didn’t want to acknowledge it. I had turned seventeen two months earlier. I took a pregnancy test, which I bought at Walgreen’s. It was positive. I hadn’t used LSD for five months, so I knew that the baby hadn’t been directly exposed. I had no idea whether my prior use would hurt the baby or not. I decided not to tell the baby’s father for another month.
I was afraid. I was afraid I’d lose the baby. I was afraid his father would leave us. I was afraid my mom would hate me. I was afraid my dad would hate me more than he already did. I was afraid I would be a bad mom. I was afraid my drug use would hurt the baby. I was afraid my lifestyle would hurt the baby. Nevertheless, I never question whether I would keep the baby. I knew I would.
In July 1997, my doctor laid the bundle that was Jasper Freedom Orion into my arms for the first time. He was seven pounds, four ounces, and nineteen inches long. He had on a pink and blue striped newborn beanie, a huge diaper, and a blanket wrapped around his tiny little body. He was so small. I ran my finger down the bridge of his button nose and my thumb across his chubby cheek. His skin was so soft. I pushed the beanie back off his little head revealing soft fine black hair. I brushed my hand softly over his head. He was so fragile. I reached into the blanket to find his hand. His fingers wrapped around mine. The thunder clattered outside, lightening streaked across the sky, and I pulled my bundle a little closer.
The first time his name passed over my lips after he was born, it carried a new meaning. There was an image and emotions tied to his name, which were not there before. There were memories and a smell tied to his name. There were sounds, which echoed in my mind each time his name was said. So much is contained in a name, a past, a present, and a future. In a single word lies the power to change lives.
One of my great joys was experiencing the world through Jasper. Everything was new. Each sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste, all new and exciting or terrifying. Someone gave me a squeaky rubber bear at the baby shower. It was about four inches high and was a sand yellow with white paws and belly. I showed it to Jasper, and he didn’t take much notice of it. I squeaked the bear to get his attention, and he let out a blood-curdling wail. The bear went in a box for later use. I felt awful that he was so scared of the stupid bear.
The day after Christmas 1997, Jas and I moved out of the home his father and I shared. Jasper was five months old. His father came to me two weeks earlier and said that he had been seeing someone else. I had known in my heart that he was at least emotionally involved with someone.
“We haven’t done anything together, I promise,” he said, but didn’t look at me. “I love you and I love Jas. I will always be here for you.” He stopped to breathe. “No matter what.”
The rest just tumbled from his lips. “I can’t do this. I’m not ready to give it all up. I’m not ready to be a dad.” He looked up at the stars, his breath visible in the night air. “I don’t want to leave you. I don’t want to break up,” he said softly, looking at the glistening snow covering the ground.
“But you are no longer only mine,” I whispered into the freezing air.
He took a drag off his cigarette letting the smoke entwine with his words. “I know.”
Through the tears rolling down my face, I said, “I have kept my promises. I have never flirted with other guys while you are around. I have not worn makeup. I haven’t drank alcohol. I have not married someone I don’t love. I will never forget you… But I know I have gotten tied down.”
We cried in each other’s arms. How could I fault him? We were so young. Our whole lives had changed. All of our plans to travel, to change the world, and get married at Stonehenge had gone awry.
Of course, I was hurt, but I wasn’t angry. How could I be angry with the person who had given me so much, who had been by my side for so long, who I loved and would always love with my whole being.
I decided that if I was going to be all that my son had, I was going to be the best I could be for him and eventually for myself. I began doing packets through Hunter High School. Each packet was a quarter credit toward my diploma. I had zero credits when I started. The packets were not difficult to understand or complete. One after another, I finished them, English, history, math, science. Everything I missed. My education and caring for my son became my only two goals.
As I found that I could be successful, I picked up the little girl who still lived inside of me. The one I had drug through homelessness, drug addiction, and hitchhiking the western coast. I dusted her off, brush out her matted tangled hair, and got her some new shoes. It was going to be a long walk after all. I began to believe in myself again. I began to dream about a better life for Jasper and me. I began to fight to be heard, to dream, and to realize my dreams. Our dreams.