The year of 1996 I returned to California, excited for a fresh start. Almost immediately after moving into a beautiful new apartment in a quiet neighborhood, I began working. There were several relatives currently residing in the complex. One of which was my brother. Due to my qualifications, it wasn’t long before being offered an opportunity for advancement. Which also meant longer hours. My daughter was in second grade and I was carrying my third chid. For the most part, she’d been a latch-key kid. My job was close so she could come see me at any time and in case of an emergency my brother along with other relatives were close by. Soon, the majority of the complex, including management (a previous co-worker of mine), maintenance as well as surrounding neighbors became like family. We’d barbeque together, watch each other’s children in the pool, laugh and celebrate holidays. Life was great during this time. I was happy. I’m still friends with many of those folks now. It never fails that whenever we talk, the topic comes up regarding that dreadful day that I came close to loosing my freedom, yet again.
Once I began earning more money, I eventually upgraded to a larger apartment on the opposite side of the complex. We’d need the extra space with the baby on his way. Before that time though, Rebecca had lived about twenty feet away. She too was a single mother of a daughter the same age as my own. We didn’t see each other much or talk often, mainly due to my work schedule. She was a stay at home mom. Ocassionally though her daughter would come over to play. The girls would bake cookies and have slumber parties. Rebecca was a nice enough person, however a bit odd. My only issue was that I didn’t agree with the demeaning manner and angry tone in which she spoke to her daughter. Such constant negativity I suspect was the reason for her daughter’s constant tantrums and crying over every small issue. Therefore, also being the reason I’d invite her to hang out when I wasn’t working, in hopes of providing an oppertunity to experience a positive, joyful enviornment.
One day after returning home from work, my daughter and other neighbors (who by now were well aware of my temper when it comes to my children) were hesitant in explaining to me how Rebecca had yanked my daughter by her shirt collar earlier in the day, cussing at her and calling her out of her name. Instantly, I became infuriated yet somehow managed to stay calm, at least for the moment. I went over the next morning to ask Rebecca to please come over for coffee so we could discuss what happened. My thought was perhaps she may be struggling with something or simply overwhelmed as a single mother. She didn’t socialize much with everyone else. I rarely saw anyone coming to visit. It was a great time in my life and as I’d reflect on previous occasions where I wished I’d handled the situation better, I tried my best to be rational by offering my support. To my surprise, she accepted the invitation. I didn’t want to resort to the inner me. For once, I was trying a different approach. I began the conversation by asking if she was ok or if she needed anything before informing her that I’d heard about the incident with my daughter. She remained calm which was surprising since I wasn’t sure what to expect. I explained to her that if there’s ever a future issue involving my child, to please come to me. I assured her that if necessary, she’d be punished in a way that I saw fit. However, I would not allow her to put her hands on my child in any form nor talk to her in the way she does with her own child. I further explained that although I don’t agree with her parenting skills, it’s not my place to judge. Tears began to race down my cheeks as I begged her while also warning her of the consequences. Since the day back in high school when I decided I’d no longer be anyone’s victim, practicing restraint has always been a huge challenge for me, especially while still battling such intense instances of fear. From the look in Rebecca’s eyes, I was confident she received the message loud and clear.
Almost two weeks later, it was obvious she hadn’t. Apparently the girls had another altercation where they’d been bickering over “Monster Eye Straws’ sold at taco bell. Rebecca’s daughter saw my daughter drinking from one and swore it was hers. What’s ironic is I’d always take on seasonal or part-time work right before the holidays so that Christmas wouldn’t be such a strain. This time, that job happened to be at taco bell. That being said, my daughter already had the complete set of the damn straws before they started being sold. When my daughter explained to me how she’d been yanked around like a lifeless puppy by Rebecca grabbing hold of her coat and screaming at her, I snapped. Quickly making me way to Rebecca’s apartment, I nearly broke my toe in an attempt at kicking in her door. My daughter ran to find my brother or anyone who could stop whatever was about to transpire(My baby girl knew me better than I knew myself).
I was unsuccessful at gaining entry to her apartment. Now even more enraged, I found myself pacing by the entry-way when I saw Rebecca approaching from the otherside of the steel gate that seperated us. My daughter and others warned her not to open the gate, but when she did, I instantly grabbed hold of her hair throwing her to the ground with my hands finding their way around her neck as I began choking her. I don’t recall how long this went on. At some point I must’ve blacked out. The voices were muffled, all except my daughter who kept screaming “momma stop, she’s turning colors!” I finally snapped out of it, looking up at my baby girl with confusion, then back down at rebecca realizing she was no longer breathing. Thankfully due to my training in the medical field, I was able to perform CPR. Once she regained consciousness , I sat holding her expecting the police to arrive any second, but they never did. back then I was clueless to the “hood” or what’s known as the rules of the “streets”, which were to NEVER involve the police.
While that event was tragic in itself, it also effected me as well as my daughter. I was angry for allowing myself to once again become so enraged. I had warned Rebecca because I had learned years before when I was holding my daughter as an infant shielding her while being jumped by five guys, that I would do whatever was necessary to protect her. I don’t ever “want” to hurt anyone, but after all I’ve endured, I wasn’t going to let anyone hurt me ever again and especially not my children. It took some years for me to learn how not to respond with violence. One main reason leading to that choice is after years of watching “mom” in an angry rage, my children came to a point where they feared it would eventually cost me my freedom or worse so they stopped telling me when they had a problem. I didn’t want them to ever be afraid to share anything with me, so I worked hard at changing by fighting my fears of the “what if’s” and I’m thankful for yet another lesson from my children and how they’ve helped to save my life. I had an aunt who would always say “Tammy, you can’t keep running up in people houses to beat they ass.” For years I didn’t understand. My mindset was, if that’s where they’re at, I’m ’bout to go get ’em. I was ignorant to the legal aspect of my actions, nor realizing the elders were speaking from experience.
Message: This was not at all a proud moment, nor the person I want to be. I shared this because I still cry and dream about that day and how It could’ve changed not only me and my kids’ lives, but also Rebecca’s daughter. I’ve made many mistakes, but I continue to learn from them and not repeat them. I am proud of my growth and even at my age, I’m still, (as Michelle Obama says) Becoming!
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