Many times in life I’ve heard how it takes a village to raise a child. Looking back at my childhood, I’m amazed how my life has been impacted by so many women. I think about my mother, Naida, my grandmother (known to everyone as MOM) whom I lived with for much of my life, my aunt Wilma, my mom’s best friend, Elly, and my best friend, Chicago’s mom, Yvonne.
Each one challenged me to be the best me, and chase any dreams I had. These women told me I wasn’t allowed to fail.
My parents split up early in my life, and from a very young age I grew up in a single parent household. It was my mother, my brother Danny, and myself. My mother worked long hard hours to provide for us, putting us through Catholic school for our education.
My mother was the first person I can remember challenging me to be great.
In school, I wasn’t allowed to fail. My mother would have me work on papers until she thought it was good enough. I always laugh at a past memory of receiving my last report card for 5th or 6th grade. I had a perfect score for every class, except for one where I got a 96. My mother told me it was like I was close to failing that class.
This is the reason my wife laughs at me when I tell her if I’d gotten below an 80 test score in high school, I thought I was going to summer school.
During my time in college, my mother started working for a foster care agency. She wasn’t with the company long when she met a little girl and boy, Karina and Michael. After meeting them, my mother wanted to add them to our family, and 2021 marks 10 years since Michael and Karina became part of our family.
While in grade school, my mother moved us in with my grandmother. This is the woman my wife says I get most of my personality from. As I continue to spend time with my grandmother, it’s clear where I get my humor from. The best part is our birthdays are just a day apart.
I need no other example of what it means to be caring and looking out for people than my grandmother. I’ve met strangers who have been fed by my grandmother. I’ve seen my grandmother take care of my great grandmother (her ex husband’s mother) for years before my great grandmother passed away.
I attended Catholic school most of my life. I know it wasn’t cheap. I know my mother couldn’t always afford it. I remember being sent home one day from school during my time at West Catholic High School because my mother hadn’t paid the tuition. (If I was alone, I might’ve been embarrassed, but most of my friends were waiting for me by the finance office. They too were being sent home.
Many times, my mother’s best friend, Elly, helped us with my tuition. She’s like another aunt. She challenged me to keep my grades up. She baby sat me. We’d go to her house for Three Kings and Cinco de Mayo. So many great memories.
As I continue to reflect on the women in my life, I think of my aunt Wilma. I can’t lie. She spoiled me. Birthdays…Christmases…. Just on the regular, she would spoil me. Take me to the movies, buy me candy.
I recently pranked her by telling her I had baby news. I did. Jas and I got a baby hamster.
If my aunt Wilma is reading this, I apologize for all the things I broke in your house growing up.
The last woman I want to acknowledge dismay best friends , Chicago’s mom, Yvonne. This one is a little rough. Yvonne passed away years ago due to breast cancer. I remember being in the hospital when the doctors said the cancer had spread.
I tried to keep it together as much as I could. After leaving the hospital, I drove to see my cousin who worked around the corner. As she came outside, I just cried. She just stood with me and hugged me.
Yvonne was like another mother. Always telling me to stay out of trouble. She told me many times she’d whoop me if I missed behaved. And yes, my mother did give her permission to do so.
I don’t look to let any of these women down. It has taken a village. I’m proud to be a product of a village of so many strong women. Each pushing me to be the best me.
Who are the women of your village?
How have they impacted you?