LEMON WATER A MEMOIR
If someone were to say to me, “Rhema-Rheanna what have you accomplished this far in life?”
My first thought would be to say “nothing”.
Nothing humbles me faster than thoughts of my past.
Nothing makes me more emotional than thinking about my childhood.
Something so sacred, for me was so...rough.
I could never relate to the happiness that comes from growing up in a stable environment, so I spent a lot of time studying life’s dynamic.
I didn't understand the meaning of an unbreakable bond. I always lacked trust and felt uncertain around people that said they cared about me.
What does that even mean?
I couldn't trust my own loved ones and felt hurt that they weren't in my life.
This is the story of the evolution between trial and triumph. The place between pain and understanding what I needed to heal.
I was born into a small loving family with a strong bond. My mom, my older sister and I.
Being separated from my family and proceeding to move through thirteen foster homes and a group home was the systems solution for a better life.
The pain of being removed from my blood who was doing everything in her power to care for me the best she could hurts the most. I have fond memories with my mother and sister. Our family of three was really tight. Being a single mother of two girls our family dynamic was feminine and organic.
My mother has nothing but love to give and showers me with constant motivation, creativity and a spirit of fierce strength.
She has taught me how to my love my skin, to be strong, resilient and never settle. She speaks to me with words of positive affirmation and makes me laugh non-stop. She has taught me about true faith and that it is okay to fail; though she always emerges a winner.
My mother is a testament to all things courageous and strong,
She taught me other lessons too, like how there is beauty in mistakes.
She taught me to never give up, even when life humbles you.
At 6 years old I came into foster care. My mother was young with two children and little to no support, she has her own compelling story that should also be told, but I’m going to let her tell it!
Being 6 years old and not being with your biological family is hard enough. The resilience and strength my mother imparted me with was my armour for the thirteen years of care that followed.
I felt alone for most of my childhood. I often felt rejected by my foster families and didn't feel loved or accepted.
I would learn to make them want to keep me around. I pretended to be the “perfect child” by always using my manners and saying very little
This never worked long term because I wasn't happy not being myself, I didn't anticipate that this would create social challenges for me later on.I didn't stay in one place for long.
My social worker would come to my foster home and tell me abruptly that I would be moving and that the “placement had fallen through”. I would have to pack up all of my things sometimes into garbage bags and basically get the hell out.
I would leave so abruptly that I didn't even get a chance to say goodbye to my friends at school. So I learned to be unattached, I didn't bother making deep connections with people because I felt like I was going to leave anyways.
I often pushed people away and developed a ‘hurt you, before you can hurt me mentality’.
I told people they didn't love me when I knew they did. I would try so hard to be unlovable just to protect myself.
This was my coping mechanism. Being seen and not heard, keeping my heart protected and never letting anyone in.
When I was 14 I moved to a group home, after a dozen moves prior, this was the last resort.
As if I had a choice; this was a completely unfair decision. I didn’t have behavioural issues.
What I needed was the love and compassion that only a committed parent can provide, someone to lead me in the right direction and love me as if I was their own. This was my life, I had no say about what happened to me.
Everyone was constantly making decisions for me and a lot of the foster parents made me feel like a pay cheque. If I wanted something at the store I was told, “we don't have an allowance for that.” I stopped asking for things and became selfish with what I did have.
My belongings became prized possessions. Baby pictures, stuffed animals, clothing and hair supplies were what I carried with me from home to home.
When I had to move to a new home my foster parents would pack my stuff up for me in garbage bags. I hated the way it made me feel as if I was disposable.
In grade 5 there was an assignment where we had to do an act of kindness.
I decided to have a fundraiser. I called it “Bears & Bags”. The students donated old bags and suitcases along with stuffed animals to kids in care. Moving around so many times and seeing all of my stuff being thrown in garbage bags gave me a different perspective on how I was being treated.
When you're a kid you do whatever you're told, you focus on cartoons, games, books and ideas. Recess is your favourite part of the day and one week feels like a month.
It’s a simpler time for most, but I had much more on my mind. I often thought about my mother and sister; where they were and if they were okay. I had little to no contact with them. I was always consumed by the pain of being away from my family.
This made me develop a strong intuition about how others feel. I didn't want anyone to experience what I felt being taken from home.
I lived in almost every city in the GTA. Moving so much that I hardly made any long lasting friendships. I would be relocated to a new home, often abruptly, sometimes having to leave in the middle of the night. They would send my things directly to my new home. There were hardly any goodbyes and every bridge always seemed to burn.
Mommy And Me
There is a lot I didn't know about my mother growing up. Being taken from her at such a young age left me to make up my own narrative and cling closely to the little that I did know.
I knew that she had been brought into foster care in grade 11.
When I was in grade 6 I told my therapist, "I want to break the cycle". I didn't realize how much power those words would hold.
The trauma my mother experienced was passed down to me but I didn't accept it as my fate...I still don't.
We used to have regulated family visits, I would really look forward to those. I would visit my mother once a week, she would often bring my sister and I gifts. But what I remember needing the most was to smell her perfume, hear her voice and feel her hug me. I really needed that.
Now that I think of it, that must be why I am so sentimental, it's the little things that truly matter to me because those are what kept me going throughout the week.
I can't remember my exact age but things changed. My mother was going through a lot more than I knew of and the visits eventually stopped. It happened slowly. She would miss a few here and there. I remember waiting for my mother to show up just to be told she called and said she couldn't make it this time.
Imagine being let down by the thing you needed most, the pain would lead me to cry for hours when I got back to my foster home.
Once I cried for so long my foster mom came in my room and handed me tissue, she told me that was enough crying and it was time for bed. I was often treated like a robot in these homes. Imagine instead of comforting a hurt child you tell them to "turn it off". This made me feel undervalued and caused me to bottle up my emotions until they all poured out at once.
After they cancelled my weekly visits with my mother, I think we'd have phone calls here and there. But I couldn't see her, I couldn't smell her perfume or feel her hugs. Again I was forced to recollect the little memories I had and promise myself to never let anyone take her place.
So every home I lived in I pushed and pushed until they sent me away. I built a door that no one was allowed to enter. I became a problem child in the eyes of the system. They didn't bother to ask me why. Why I was constantly crying and distant. No one bothered to try and understand, instead many of them treated me like a paycheque. Even if I was the worst kid in the world (which I wasn't, that kid does not exist) they saw me as disposable income. A child that wasn't their own was not worth their time or money.
My relationship with my mother will never be the same. The amount of trauma to unpack is at an inexplicable level. I always pray that God will restore my relationship with her. I know he will in due time, but for now I still hold on to the memories.