A story from Courage Does Not Always Roar.
I'll never forget that first night in our new apartment. I had spent the previous week getting the place ready for us to move in as I prepared for the next chapter in my life: a single mom going back to college with my four-year-old son, Michael, in tow.
We had lived with my parents in Dover, Delaware, for a year after my marriage broke up. They were so patient and generous as they gave me space and time to figure out what I was going to do with the rest of my life. I was just 23 years old - disappointed in love and confused about my future. I finally decided I needed to go to college and get an education.
I had very little money to start my new life - $100 a month child support and $100 a month from my parents. I rented a basement apartment in Newark, where the University of Delaware was located, a hundred miles north of Dover. I furnished it with a $10 army cot for Michael, a $40 used bed for myself, a $10 table on which to study, and two empty beer kegs with pillows on top for stools. My coffee table was two cinder block bricks with a board across the top. There was no sofa, just a small Greek Flokati rug to sit on the floor. A bookcase held my radio/receiver, turntable, and a pair of small stereo speakers. The apartment looked like a typical college student apartment, except that in our case, the student was a young single mother with a toddler.
Michael and I spent our first day unpacking and putting our clothes and personal things away in the closets and cabinets. His toys filled a plastic laundry basket. We went to the market to stock up on food and got the kitchen all ready to use. It had been a busy day.
Bedtime came and after his bath, I knelt to tuck Michael into his army cot. Tears welled up in his eyes as I leaned over to kiss him goodnight. "I'm scared," he started to cry. "I want to go back to Grandma's house."
I wrapped my arms around him. "I know, sweetheart. I want to go back to Grandma's house too," I said as I started to cry, too. "But we can't - we have to stay here and start our new life. From now on it's just you and me."
We clung to each other and sobbed. We felt like a couple of orphans, suddenly finding ourselves alone that night, knowing we had to make our own way in the world.
There were no reassuring bedtime stories or fairy tales to make us feel better. We just hugged each other. Michael finally fell asleep in my arms and I went off to sleep in my own room.
That was many years ago and needless to say, we survived that night. We rose to the challenges of the following days, weeks, months and years. It wasn't easy for either of us. I often say that Michael and I took turns raising each other.
And we still like to go to Grandma's house - but we're not afraid to sleep in our own beds, in our own homes, anymore.