BY MIKI MARKOVICH
By the time my grandmother and I caught up with my mother, she had changed her look, her name and her husband. Knocking on the door of the rundown trailer in Greenbrier, Arkansas, my soon-to-be sixth grade self was surprised to see a hardly recognizable woman open the door.
Spotting her family, without a word, she tightly closed it again. My grandmother unloaded my suitcases from the van, placing them neatly on the porch, then drove away. Eventually, I was let in the decrepit trailer, meeting my mother’s fourth husband for the first time. He was introduced as Reb. She told me her name was now Belle. It would be many years before I learned his real name, not that it mattered or that I cared.
It was obvious that the newlyweds weren’t interested in having a kid around, so I did my best to stay invisible, which was difficult since I didn’t have a bedroom. Reb seemed especially inflamed by my existence after sharing his day with a bottle of Jack Daniel. The three of us moved from Greenbriar to Plummerville, where Reb cut up all of our furniture, trashed our car and took off never to return. We later moved to Menifee, then settled into the sunlit, southern town of Morrilton.
I loved Arkansas actually, I still do. I spent my afternoons in the basement of the public library and my Wednesdays and Sundays at a church just down the road. I didn’t attend church for the bible verses or to scrub my soul to sparkling perfection. I attended for a dose of normalcy and routine. Whether attending church or riding my bike until three or four in the morning, for the most part, I stayed out my mother’s affairs and she stayed out of mine.
Years passed. At some point, she started working for a rich soybean farmer, not only managing the fields, but also running a BBQ food truck. I liked going out on the industrialized farm sometimes, but especially loved the food truck. Let me tell you, our adventures making homemade mayonnaise were something else. Soon after, my mother was engaged to a rich man who trusted too much.
When I learned of her black widow plan, I knew I had to do something. It wasn’t an easy decision. If this congenial man who went by two first names didn’t believe me and told my mother, at worst I’d be putting my own life in jeopardy and at best I’d have to leave this place I loved calling home. At just three years in this state, I had lived here longer than any other state. I had friends, roots and routine.
On a warm, sunny afternoon, I heard the knock at the kitchen door. Letting him in, I asked if I could speak in confidence. Words tumbled out in uneven streams. I could barely breathe as I shared a quick summary of what I knew. When I finally finished, I begged him not to tell my mother about our conversation. Unnerved, I went about my day trying to act as if everything was normal.
Something in him must have believed me. Although he didn’t confront her, he had two of his off-duty, police officer friends come by the house. I don’t know what was said, but that night we disappeared under the cover of darkness. As always, there were no goodbyes to my friends at school and no real packing. We took what fit in the car and that was all. I went to five schools in three states that year tough for a high school freshman trying to learn French. To this day, about all I can do with the language is introduce myself.
I had never strayed from my loyalty to my mother until that incident. I took care of her when she was sick, whether from a cold or a bout with bad drugs. I wanted to be close to her no matter the consequences. I did whatever I could think of to earn her respect and her love. But at some point, I had to start look outside our bubble and consider what was right for the world. Yes, the consequences were that we moved from the only place I had ever felt I belonged, but that was inevitable. The farmer? I heard recently that he lived a nice, long life, just passing away a few years or so ago.
It’s still scary to put myself out there, to stand up for ideas I believe in, to take chances and to live life as I see fit. I do love a calm, waveless existence. But at the end of the day, life is about priorities. There are times I jump into the wild ocean and times I revel in the sanctuary of a sun warmed beach.
How many lives have you saved? Whether finding a drunk friend a sober ride home, providing meals for the homeless, finding a forever home for a stray, raising money for your favorite non-profit or doing your part to put an end to bullying in community, your choices everyday make the world of difference. Tell me what you’re passionate about. I’d love to hear.
Miki Markovich is a seeker of beauty and truth, traveler of interesting roads, saver of furry souls, typer of words, iPhone lover and mac head. You can find her on Twitter at @mikimarkovich and @fiveminutezen. If you’re looking to go from pissed to blissed in five minutes flat, find balance or improve the quality of your life through self care, check out her website at fiveminutezen.com.