by Sharri Harris

There comes a time--a realization of truth--in each person's life. For some this time can bring such joy--a love professed, maternal bonding, or coming into one's sense of self. For others the time is pure emotional pain.

In the winter of 1988, I was struggling to make sense of my life. Married, a mother to a one-year old, Andrew, and enlisted in the United States Air Force in Washington State--seemingly a world away from New York City where I was raised. My native New Yorker husband, Ben, had not taken well to this new environment and I felt an enormous burden to make it "better" for him on a limited budget. I was the super wife/mother. We had problems, argued, fought, made up, settled down and then started the cycle all over again. I suspected he was cheating but as the super wife I knew I could "fix" that. How foolish of me at that time. My moment of truth was quickly approaching.

The United States Air Force provided on-base daycare at reasonable rates and I took full advantage of it. The base was 17 miles away from the apartment complex that we lived in. After work, my husband would pick me up after he got off from work. His shift ended an hour after I got off but I would use that time to finish any work I had not accomplished and then pick up Andrew from daycare, walk back to the warehouse where I worked and wait for my husband. This particular evening my supervisor who knew about the problems we were experiencing asked me if I needed a ride home. With a smile on my face I told him no and that my husband would be there any minute. My supervisor looked doubtful but he did not express his concerns. One more time he asked me if I needed a ride and I assured him no. He left.

The reaction of my supervisor began a seed of doubt and so I called Ben's job. The receptionist tried to page him and got no response to the page. I assumed he was on his way so I did not worry--at first. I left the warehouse and went to the daycare center pick up Andrew. Andrew was a very happy child. Loved by the daycare workers, he smiled and laughed constantly. Children truly bring joy where there seemingly is none. I collected his things and left. Before I left one of the workers reminded me to bring more diapers as he was out. No problem.

Back at the warehouse, no sign of the car and no sign of Ben. My worry factor increased but I firmly pushed it back. I began a running dialogue with myself--Ben would not do this to me. Not essentially leave me stranded on base, 17 miles away from the apartment complex we lived in, with no money and no other means of getting home without involving a third party. Not both of us--not his loving wife and young child. As time wore on I kept making excuses to myself. Traffic, perhaps he got pulled over, or worse yet an accident!

Andrew began to get restless and I gave him a bottle--the last one in his baby bag. I called the job again and this time asked for a supervisor--the supervisor informed me that Ben had quit that day after picking up his paycheck and could I tell him when I see him that he left a shirt there? Numb--I said of course I would. As I slowly hung up the phone I began to feel the tears well up in my eyes. Idiot, again.

At this point I could have called my supervisor who would have got up out of his bed and given me a ride home. I could have told my story and he would have arranged for me to get emergency money from the Air Force Aid Society. I could have done this and more but my pride and dignity told me No. I could not allow myself to admit defeat. So there in that warehouse, with my child, on top of the boxes of paper I made a make shift bed and said a short prayer to whatever energy was out there to make me strong. Make me strong enough to get me through this and everything else that came my way. I vowed at that point to always have control over the events in my life and not give that power to someone else. I said those words out loud to make it real and true. That night, I slept soundly and peacefully.

Copyright 1998 Moxie Magazine All Rights Reserved