Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Parent (11/16/06)
TITLE: Revelation on the #147
By April Bailey
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My own childhood ended that day in the hospital, the day my daughter was born. But it began slipping away months before at school, snatched up like tiny bites from gossipy glances and weighted words of judgment. My spot on the track team was filled, my record of academic excellence virtually forgotten. My future, their looks presumed, had been derailed. Everyone thought it over. Despite being just sixteen, my youth screeched to a halt with seven pounds three ounces of responsibility named Mariah.
And when the whirlwind of shower gifts and visiting relatives died down, reality settled hard and without delay. Any romantic notions of motherhood were quickly buried under noxious diapers and endless crying spells. I did my duty, taking care of Mariah. But I didn’t see her. I saw only how she affected me. My life. My plans. How she hogged up every second of who and what I wanted to be and changed me into her personal slave.
Then one day, I picked Mariah up from daycare and we caught the #147 bus for home. It was typically a long, uneventful ride that held the promise of many stops. My daughter often slept it through, but this afternoon, she was wide awake. As for me—working two jobs, studying for my G.E.D., and attempting to resurrect at least a few of my dreams—exhaustion had claimed me long ago. I was running on mercy and my mother’s prayers.
My daughter and I sat in the very back of the bus, shielded from the quick on-and-offers and elderly baby oglers. I rather enjoyed the jostling from the back seat as we bounced around with each pothole. Mariah, in her stroller, faced me. Up and down. Up and down. There was something about the movement of the bus that made me smile inside, a funny feeling I hadn’t felt in forever. I looked at my daughter, hoping to share it with her, and a tug in my heart made me catch my breath. She was looking me right in the eye. Not giggling, not wriggling, not demanding anything. Just gazing at me, as if to say, Thank you, Mommy. I love you more than anything. And I rejoiced in this tiny person, whose chubby fingers often reached for me, and from whom slobbery giggles bubbled up at the very sight of me. She was mine. Not a mistake. Not an obstacle to my future. My future had become our future … together. The God who gave her to me opened my eyes to the miracle of Mariah. What I sought from the world—respect, love, achievement, acknowledgement—I already had from my daughter … unconditionally. “Forgive me, Lord, for being so selfish. And thank you for this precious child.” I didn’t bother to wipe my cheeks as tears of release streamed freely.
I realized that day on the bus that Mariah made me want to be a better person, reach for even greater dreams, and give her whatever I could to help her do the same. My sin had sent me down this lifelong road, but my daughter was heaven sent. I had given birth to a child nearly eight months before, but something in me shifted that day. There on the #147, looking into my Mariah’s eyes, I finally became a parent.
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