Into the Shark Tank – Part One

Tired. Bone tired.

At Rice Food Market, on my feet six nights a week, I worked the cash register, sacked and lifted heavy brown sacks loaded with groceries from 5 PM until closing at midnight. By the end of my shift, my feet swelled. My back ached. But the job provided health insurance, and a six-month maternity leave with pay. This was an answer to my prayers; God had provided.

I normally didn’t get home until one in the morning. To my good fortune, I worked directly across the street from our apartment on Bissonnet. A teenage neighbor watched our daughters for a couple of hours and fed them before my husband arrived home. I’d leave work at break time to check in on him and the girls in the evenings.

Too often, I’d find my husband draped across the couch out cold.

“Donny . . . Donny . . . .” I stood over him shaking his arm. “Dammit Donny, wake up.”

“What? I am awake!” he spat, and turned over.

“You’re supposed to put the girls to sleep before passing out. Remember?”

“Theyrslumppnng . . .”

“What—? You make me sick!”

I stormed away to check in on my sleeping angels. Before I opened their door, I heard whispering and giggling coming from the kitchen.

I never imagined how I’d find my girls entertaining themselves. On the floor amidst my pots and pans, they sat with the refrigerator door open. Five-year-old Anna Marie pretended to cook. She mixed her sisters a concoction of whatever she found in the fridge: raw eggs, ketchup, Pepto-Bismol, mayonnaise, grape jelly—and Lord knew what else—stirred in for good measure. I got home in the nick of time. Good Lord, I think I even smell beer in the mixture!

I wanted to quit work. But I needed to hold on for those maternity benefits.

A few nights later, I discovered the two youngest girls precariously hanging out the window of our second-story apartment—fearlessly leaning on their bellies, legs flaying in mid-air—my heart swelled in my throat. Concerned for their safety, I didn’t want to frighten them or have them keel over the windowsill. And I happened to be extremely skittish of heights.

¡Calmete! I told myself. You don’t want a repeated episode of having your baby early. I held my breath. I snuck behind them, grabbed them and pulled them in.
For me to repeatedly find the girls unsupervised and unattended became too much to bear. They deserved better. They didn’t need to see their father’s belligerent drunkenness. They didn’t need to hear their parents fighting, name calling, and screaming. What they needed and deserved, was a non-hostile environment—a safe refuge—filled with love, security, and self-esteem. And as their parents, we failed to give them that.

I imagined what our neighbors thought about us whenever uproars detonated through the walls from our apartment.

One evening I found out.

A couple of police officers knocked on our door. I wasn’t too surprised, but by then, all was calmed. Donny, in a drunken coma, had passed out.

The cops noticed I’d been weeping; however, I hadn’t any visible bruises on me. I never pressed charges against my husband before. Call me stupid. But I wasn’t going to then either. After some specific questioning, they gathered that I needed help. They asked if the girls and I had any place else to go or relatives close by. Naturally, I thought about fleeing to Miami, but even if we were to get there, then what?

Seeing our substandard living conditions, they handed me a Child Protective Services’ calling card. They strongly advised I take the girls in for a routine medical examination in the morning. How many times had my mother dealt with them when I was a kid? I knew nothing embodied “routine” when CPS became involved.

Early the next day, I bathed and dressed my girls in their prettiest dresses. I silently brushed their hair in pigtails, making ringlets with my fingers. I listened to their chatter, blinking away tears, and savored the moment to admire their beauty and uniqueness.

“Mommy, where we goin’?” Angela asked. “Put dis ribbon in my hair.”

“Lookie, Mommy, I can tie my shoes.” Anna Marie grinned.

“Ouchie! Don’t pull my hair, Mommy.”

“Balloon?” Diana asked, thinking we were going to the store.

“Mommy, are you sad?”

“Your tummy is gettin’ big again, Mommy.”

A few hours later, heartbroken and devastated, I was silently praying for their quick return.

(To be continued.)

This is a short excerpt from “Running in Heels – A Memoir of Grit and Grace,” Chapter 32. In this snippet, I reflect back to a time when my role as a young mother wasn’t so easy. With Mother’s Day soon approaching, I felt it was appropriate sharing this with you.

© M.A. Perez 2014, All Rights Reserved

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21 Comments

Filed under Memoir

21 responses to “Into the Shark Tank – Part One

  1. Angela

    I remember this like it was yesterday….

  2. Sandy Brockhausen

    Once again my heart is touched by your words and description of your early adult years. It is evident that The Lord was with you through it all and protected you and your children against all odds. Thank you again for sharing your life’s story and memoirs. Again I await with baited breath for the next revelation of God’s goodness.

    Blessings my sweet friend,

  3. Mary so many women live this life your story will help many and give them hope.

  4. Janie Urbano

    With every post, I see more what a phenomenal woman of God you are Mary Ann, and my respect and love for you goes to another level. Keep doing what He has called you to do. You may never know what an impact you have made on someone’s life, until you get to heaven.. You are amazing!

  5. Ruben Perez

    Wow! How you could have possibly have all of those situations happening to you! Thank God you had a intimate relationship with Him. Can’t wait for the Book!

    • Thank you Ruben. Although I didn’t always know it, God made the difference in my life. I’m just glad He wasn’t immune to my pain.

  6. Can’t wait to hear more!

  7. Yeah, I know how those high heels fit. They just pinched different toes.

  8. Very well written Mary , it touched my heart bringing back memories from my Storm filled past. I lost 3 of my Children at birth and 4 before and although I know it was not by God’s hand, I rejoice now that they have only known Joy, my first husband was not an alcoholic but he was very violent, he had also been abused badly as a Child and hurt people hurt people and themselves unless healed.

    I will leave a link of my childhood for you and how Jesus became my friend, what keeps me strong now even in the Storms life brings, is His words below, they are engraved on my heart.

    Isaiah 43:1-3 – Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour.”

    Jeremiah 29 :11-12 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

    Lamentations 3: 33 For God doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the Children of men.

    Childhood – http://freedomborn.wordpress.com/2011/09/27/the-early-years-a-little-lost-girl/

    Christian Love from both of us – Anne

  9. Wow! You write beautifully, and what an amazing story! I can’t wait to read more. So grateful that you obeyed God and put your story in written form!

  10. Beautifully written…very touching.

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