As I drove through the town that May, her brother and sister, and my Aunt May called home, I had the familiar feeling of being at the crest of a roller coaster, looking down at the ground right before the drop. My heart was pounding with anticipation and fear. I thought about how Maya must feel knowing that I would be stopping by. I gathered that she must have felt more nervous than I was given that she was the same age of the students I teach.
When I got to the edge of town, I pulled up alongside the curb of a residential street. This was it. I got out of the car, shut the door and clicked the remote lock. I heard the familiar beep signaling that the alarm was set. It’s seems instinctual how routine things tend to become a source of comfort when facing the unknown. I went up to the door and knocked. Seconds later, my aunt answered the door with a big smile, just as I remembered her. ”Hey Lace! How have you been?” she beamed as she gave me a big hug. I was then able to exhale. I joked about how I was lucky I made it there before midnight with my sense of direction and that even though it was a small town, it was a little tricky for me to navigate. Her laugh was a contagious chuckle, just as it always had been.
I glanced across the room and saw a young teenage girl stand up from behind a laptop. She was wearing athletic shorts and a baggy t-shirt. She was doing a good job of hiding the tiniest hint of a swelling belly. I said, “Hello, you must be Maya. I’m your cousin, Lacie.” She walked right over to me with tears in her eyes but wearing a smile and gave me a warm hug. I pulled away from her slightly and said. ”You must be really scared. Are you scared?” She nodded. I let her know, “Well I just wanted to stop by and I promise I won’t stay long. I wanted you to see me face to face before we have our meeting on Sunday night. I wanted you to see that I am not an intimidating person and neither is my husband, Michael. We are both open and friendly. I didn’t want you to have to be nervous about meeting me all weekend. I also wanted to give you this card. It has a letter that I wrote to you inside of it. You can share it with your mom if you want to or it can be between the two of us. I also included a picture of Michael and I so that you can picture us whenever you’d like. Sorry, but I am a lot skinnier in the picture than I am right now. I’m always a work in progress!” She took the card, shook her head and laughed, and thanked me. I looked over to my aunt and she said, “Thank you.” with tears in her eyes.
We talked and laughed for a few more minutes and then left them with big hugs, promising that I’d see them on Sunday evening. I walked out of the house and I felt good, like things would be okay. One step at a time. On the twenty-minute drive home I thought non stop about Maya. She had dark almond-shaped eyes, just like mine. We also share similar button noses and round cheeks. Her hair was black (like Michael’s) and she had beautiful caramel colored skin. She seemed to have a sweet, friendly, yet shy disposition. I wondered what the baby she was carrying would look like. I knew that he or she would be beautiful. I wondered what was going through her head. I wondered if she tore into my card right away, or if she would need time to process everything and maybe tuck it away for later. I wondered what the next few months would be like. Was this going to be a time of excitement and hope or continued disappointment for us? For Maya, regardless of the path she ended up choosing, this was going to be perhaps the most difficult journey she’d navigate in her life. Wow. It was an amazing yet complicated situation.
When I got home I did the other thing I could think of to reach out to her. I friend requested her on Facebook. I sent her a message inviting her to check out my profile so that she could get to know me a little better. (On a side note, I have always had a “strictly PG” policy for my Facebook content and the language I choose to use including what photos that I allow my friends to post. Not that am up to anything completely immoral or illegal, it’s just that I am a teacher and it can be difficult to live my life as a role model for youth. I had never been as grateful for this choice as I was at that moment. You just never know). While obsessively checking my phone, I saw that she accepted my friend request within minutes. Her status was a quote from the card that I had given her.
“Move forward in the direction of your dreams…“