All posts by nikki skies

Playwright/Poet/Actor/Author/Educator

Birth Marks

April 29, 2008

Thankfully the thick highway traffic swallowed our need to communicate.  She chased the downtown buildings with her eyes as I obeyed the break lights from the car ahead of me to the local Greyhound station. 

After my grandmother’s death, my mother announced to the family that she wanted to move south to Atlanta and be rid of the tortuous midwest winters.  I had flown the coup some 18 years earlier but the majority of my family remained in Kansas City, Mo. including my younger sister and brother.  At this time, my mother already had custody of 4 of my sister’s children and my sister visited them over my mom’s as often as possible with their youngest sister whom she still had with her.  My mother’s announcement also hesitantly brought about my sister’s decision to move to Atlanta too. 

They made their move June 2007 and my sister hated every second of the three months she stayed.  One day, my mother went to the store and my sister packed up a few things of hers and the youngest girl and caught a cab to the bus station to  return to Kansas City.  My sister told the other kids she would be back soon.  They loyally watched and waited for her until my mother told them she was not coming back.  My conversation with my sister wasn’t cordial but just as direct.  When I would have conversation with the kids, they wanted to know why she didn’t take them.  The oldest girls wanted to know how their younger sister was doing. 

Countless conversations and seven months later, my sister agreed to let the youngest girl come back to Atlanta to live with her siblings instead of pretending to be an only child.  My sister stayed with us a little over a week to allow the baby to get re-acquainted with everyone.  Now we allowed interstate 85 south to commence her trip.  I’m sure she was thinking, ‘the trip where I lost another baby’.

In my heart I knew this was the right thing because the children needed to be together and my sister did not have the stability she needed to care for a baby nor did she have the near by help from my mother in Kansas City.  My sister described her bus ride down as smelly and long.  She vowed she would never take the bus to Atlanta again, she would have to get over her fear of planes.  I wonder if this is what she was thinking as she gazed out at the downtown architecture.  I wondered, where did she feel it?  Did it feel like a slow paced pendulum that swung vertical in the pit of her stomach like mine?  Did she want me to drive faster so she could get it over with? 

The coneflowers had just bloomed in the city and incised my allergies to set off a chain of sneezes as we reached the bus terminal.  She pulled her bus ticket out and read to me her first stop would be in Tennessee.  I searched for the right words to find, that last conversation to have with her and drew an absolute blank on a topic that would be pleasant.  My sister, reached towards the back seat and grabbed her black duffel bag as I found a spot to park right outside of the lot.  I wanted to tell her this was a no win situation for both of us.  No one won, no one lost.  I wanted to reassure her that being selfless was what we both needed to do and time would allow everyone to reap the benefits.  I wanted to reach over and hug her, kiss her on the cheek, tell her how brave she was.  Instead, I fought back tears and searched her eyes for a possible good-bye.  She looked my way but not at me, opened the door and said, “her birthmark is on the back of her right ankle.”

Her comment soothed my urge to cry.  I knew that simply meant, ‘take care of my daughter.’  I drove my heavy heart home thinking the entire ride, ‘I will, I will.’

zero to five in 32 hours

I always knew the day would come.  From his entrance in 1993.  His in 1998.  Then she came in 2001.  2004.  And 2006.

2008, I packed up my single life in Los Angeles and made my trek to Atlanta to get custody of my sister’s children.  Her five children. 

I made this privy decision after the second girl was born in 2004.  When “it” was now apparent in my mother.  I could hear “it” in her voice.  But “it” was loudest in her silence.  The flat breath that would catch happiness and linger trapped between her sighs.  My mother not being able to enjoy the fruits of being a grandmother because she was in a position of subordination to being a mother all over again.   Her angered disappointment, which is different from both anger and disappointment.  Her thanksgiving needing to be a holiday of receiving.  Our conversations gave guilt to the quiet jazz filled afternoons in my LA apartment.  Our conversations consistently robbed Roy Hargrove and I of the enjoyment of our new bottle of chilled riesling.  I needed to resolve.  The options: the kids become wards of the state or raised by my mother, who had become quite lenient with her home rules and expectations.  Foster care had already been in the picture.  The kids had already been split up before.  The boys stayed together but the oldest girl, only five months old, was sent to be cared for by another family.  Stories formed with the youngest boy being mistreated by another child in a foster home.  Stories of the kids crying at the end of visitations upon not being satisfied with the answers they received to their inquisitons, “can I come home yet?” 

I wanted to create another story.  Help write another ending for them.  After all, intergenerational family rearing is nothing new to most cultures.  Even my grandparents’ modest three bedroom home had ever revolving doors to their nine children and 17+ grandchildren so this decision seemed natural for me too.  But like most, I presume, who choose this, we do not see the stories that await us.  The stories of the hard adjustment to living in a new city, the demands of your time (or what used to be), the depression, the anxiety, creating a personal/social life with five kids, dating, finding the “mommy button” and the arduous task of re-membering who I am and re-inventing my self as a woman, artist and active aunt of five.  Some stories are funny and some are serious.  From journal entries to day to day tales, this blog is about me going from zero to five in 32 hours.