I refer to my “breath of fresh air” as the woman who came into my life when I was eleven years old. I was at my father’s house one weekend, sitting on the couch watching TV, when I heard a knock at the front door. My father had already told me he was expecting company, so I opened the door and let her in.
“Hi, come on in,” I said waving.
“Hi, I’m Paula,” she said, smiling as she walked inside.
She is so pretty, I thought. It was hard to believe she and my father were the same age because she looked so young. Before she’d arrived, my father had already told me their story. They had been friends since they were six years old. Their mothers lived next door to each other for years. She and my father had grown up together, dated off and on, and remained good friends. They had lost contact over the years, so this would be their first time seeing one another in a very long time. I liked Paula right away because she was so warm and inviting. She hugged me and talked to me while my father was upstairs getting ready. He was taking his time, making sure he looked and smelled nice.
When he finally came down, I watched them hug tightly, and then they sat on the couch. They must’ve talked for hours. I was sad when it was time for her to leave, asking her to stay a little while longer. She assured me she’d be back soon. I don’t remember how my hair was at the time, but I’m sure it was probably a mess, because she promised me she would come back in a few days to braid it for me.
“Okay,” I said, only half believing her. People were always telling me they were going to do something and never did it, so I expected the same from her.
My face lit up when she arrived a few days later, just as she’d said she would, with all the supplies to braid my hair. She sat on the couch; I sat on the floor between her legs, and for the next few hours, she braided my hair. Even at eleven years old, I knew how to be thankful when someone did something for me that they didn’t have to do.
From that moment on, I felt like I got a breath of fresh air every time she came over. It was always just my father and me, so it was always nice when someone else was there with us, particularly Paula. I liked the feeling of having her there.
She instantly took me in like I was one of her own, teaching me how to be a young lady from personal hygiene to making sure I made my bed every morning. When I got my monthly cycle for the first time, she bought me a vanity bag packed with pads, deodorant, a bar of soap, Ibuprofen, and an extra pair of panties. She told those were the necessities every lady should carry.
She had had four daughters of her own, and five grandchildren. When she introduced me to them she said, “These are your sisters, and those are your nieces and nephews.”
I never really knew what to call her. Referring to her as my father’s friend was a major understatement as she was much more to me than that. Godmother sounded like an understatement as well, as the term is overused. I could never bring myself to call her, or anyone else, “Mommy,” because it felt like I was betraying my mother. So, I stuck with calling her by her first name.
Paula would come get me on weekends and take me to one of her daughter’s houses to get a break from my father. Every graduation—elementary, middle, and high school—she made sure my hair and attire were on point. For my middle and high school proms, she got my hair done, bought my dresses, and drove my friends and me to both.
When I was crowned Miss Rambler, one of my high school’s homecoming queens, she showed up just as I thought I wouldn’t have a car to ride in for the homecoming parade. Parade goers were oohing and aahing as we rode by; not at me, but at her shiny black Mercedes Benz with its twenty-inch rims. I stood out of the sunroof, smiling and waving proudly.
Half-way through my senior year of high school, Paula moved me out of my father’s house. I had been going with her most weekends and returning back home on Sundays. But one Sunday, she decided I wasn’t going back. She could see the damage he was doing to my mind, my emotions, and even my body.
I had gained a significant amount of weight in my junior and senior years of high school, because eating was one of the ways I dealt with depression. I didn’t know I was depressed; I just knew I was sad every day and eating made me feel better. Apparently, Paula noticed. She could see I was on a downward spiral. I hadn’t realized those “weekend getaways” were her way of gradually moving me out….
Paula, I am still and will forever be grateful for how you came into my life and took me in as if I was one of your very own. I pray you have a very HAPPY BIRTHDAY. I love you ♥
*This was an excerpt from my book, Pain, Promiscuity, Purpose: From Mess To Ministry