In last week’s story about Aria and the fraught relationship with her mother, we left off with Aria ending up in foster care after she had been kicked out of her mother’s apartment. In part two of her story, she shares the incidents that eventually convinced her to cut her out of her life.
"And I'm like, what is... like how I end up here? I just don't understand how I ended up there. This is when I really started thinking this system is so not for Black people, not for anybody, really. But I'm sure they would if it were a White girl, they would have been like, OK let me handle her little more gently. But I don't understand how I got here."
In foster care, there were girls who had been prostitutes, girls on drugs, girls in gangs. They were all relegated to one minute showers, 5-6 people at a time. Aria kept thinking:
“Like, I’m really in jail for doing nothing.”
NSNC: Yeah, no one explained anything to you.
So they had like this one room, it was like a small room and it only had two cops in there. This lady. LaShawn, me and her connected. She was one of the workers there one of the, people that would wrangle everybody. She told me, 'I could see that you're different. You're going to go in this room.' So then this big girl is like, 'Why the fuck she get to go and have her own room?!' And she started going off like,'No, I'm going up in there. I'ma have my own room.
LaShawn says 'Because I said so. You gon fight me too?' So automatically the other girls there hate me.
And I was in there for maybe like two days to three days. Then LaShawn came, she was like, 'Come I'll take you out.' She took me outside, went to the movies and you know, stuff like that. While I was in there LaShawn allowed me to use a cell phone so, you know, I called the guy was dating, I called his mom, I'm calling my job. And they couldn't believe what was going on. But they told me, 'When you come out, you already know you still have a job.'
NSNC: You have all these different mother figures who show up in your life.
Right! People always have this thing with 'How you don't speak to your mother?!' They automatically judge you, but it's like I don't feel no type of way because it was so many. mother figures that popped up that made sure I was good. So I don't feel like I really missed anything. Just because a woman had a child doesn't mean that she's a mom.
I regret not keeping in contact with LaShawn because one night they just came and said, 'OK, we're ready for you.' They called my name and it was like, get your stuff.
Aria didn’t know where she was going with her belongings. And after waiting until everyone else in the van was dropped off, she learned that she was going to be living with a foster mom in Queens. She was a nice older lady with a husband but still, Aria was wondering why she was there. Immediately, when she got to this new foster home, a Puerto Rican girl who had lived there for years said, ‘I just want you to know this is my house.’ Shortly after that the threats started. The Puerto Rican girl said, ‘You be acting like you better than people but I will fight you.’
And I’m like, ‘Ok, you can try.’
While living in a foster home, Aria continued working. When the other girls in the home found out about it, they stole some of the money she had earned. Fed up after that, one day she just left.
"One day, I just went AWOL. I never showed up. In the meantime, Aria made friends with her caseworkers. They also had locs and she started doing their hair. But when she left the foster home, they kept in contact with her but decided not to file any paperwork. She moved in with the boyfriend and his mother."
NSNC: Did you ever get your suitcases?
I got them, right, but I tell you, bleach! The whole two suitcases full of bleach. So it wasn't even--it didn't even make sense to get them. So I just threw everything out.
I'm like, 'Whatever I'll bounce back. It was like typical.
NSNC: So were you still going to school?
I went to school, my mother show up at the school.
Like why are you coming up here?
NSNC: To do what?
"Make a whole scene! So now the guidance counselors is all in it because they weren't really privy to what was going on."
"My mother would show up, she cursing and carrying on at the school and I was like, you know what I can't deal. So I just stopped going to school, honors classes, straight A's, 4.0 student, 12 college credits before I even left high school. And I just stopped going. I was like, 'I don't want her to know where to find me.' So I dropped out. I was in 11th grade."
"My guidance counselor would call me like, 'You have so much potential. You can make it.' But I would ignore her calls. I just don't want to be bothered.
This lady come down to my job, my mother. She found out where I was working. She comes down there. So I had a jean jacket on and I think like, I can't remember if she gave it to me long time ago or what. But we were getting ready to close and she starts cursing all in the salon, clients in there, everything."
"And I'm like, so embarrassed I'm bringing drama to these people who could have been like, no, you got too much going on. Like fire her. But even through the whole foster care thing not coming to work for months, you know, back and forth with my mom, they still took me back to work. But the owner of the salon, Ona, said to my mother, 'I'm asking you to leave.' The owners and the manager were at the door trying to push her out."
When Aria's mother wouldn't comply, someone called the police. When they get there, Aria's mother says, 'This is my daughter!'
"And she starts carrying on and the cops listen to her. But then one of the cops say, 'Miss you cannot come to people place of business and behave like this.' So now she has this thing where she'll try to bend you over with her Christian ways. So she's like, 'Heavenly Father!' And she starts praying."
NSNC: Oh my God!
"Yes. Now she's on the floor, like she on the street, like literally laying on the ground. And she's like, 'Our father who art in heaven.' She's like putting on a whole production. It was ridiculous."
In the midst of her mother’s antics, a female officer pulls Aria to the side and asks her where she’s been staying. After all she’s experienced, she was naturally hesitant about sharing. But after the woman assured her it would be fine, she decided to trust her. When she tells the officer where she’s staying, the woman said, ‘Ok. I’m going to tell your mom that we’re going to bring you home but I’m going to take you where you were.’When the cop tells Aria’s mother that she’s bringing her back home, that’s when she decides to leave the salon. But not before proving one last point.
"She's like, 'Take off my jacket! Take my jacket off right now.' I took the jacket off and I gave it to her. Mind you, it's freezing outside. Then she said, 'And you get in my house now!' So the cop is like, she's not coming with you, we're going to deliver her, you know, so you can go home and we'll bring her within the next hour or whatever. But then the lady kept her promise and she took me to where I was staying and from that day it was, that was it. My mother never came back. I was 17."
NSNC: Before you continue, let me ask you. Because your sister was the recipient of your mom's affections, did you ever feel a way toward your sister?
"No, no, because my sister experienced--, my mother is not a loving person. Like one time she had beat my sister with a knife. At12 my sister got pregnant and I remember my mother beating her to a pulp, her face was swollen. She had two black eyes. I was young because my sister is like 40, 41 now. [Aria was 31 at the time of this interview.] And she beat my sister to a point where her face was disfigured. This is when we were in Barbados. But she sent my sister to St. Vincent to live with my aunt. So my sister's thinking 'OK, well she's going to send me but what is going to happen to my baby.' The story that I've been told is that my Mom, sold my sister's baby, my niece, to a lady."
"Yes, to a lady that was visiting from St. Vincent. She was poor and came to Barbados to see if she could get a Visa to come here but it didn't work out. So my mom sold my niece to the lady. The lady took my niece to St. Vincent where she was living. And nobody knew where my niece was for months."
The baby’s other grandmother went on a nationwide search for her.
“My niece told me they found her in the goat pen, just there, just sitting there in all the goat feces. My mom was embarrassed that her daughter was pregnant at 12, having a baby at 13, and she just wanted it to disappear. Her logic is so off. So with all of these things, you can't do anything but expect certain behaviors from somebody who's like that.”
"I tried to like make up with her years later, even when I got pregnant with my son and she was like,--because his father is dark skin. 'Oh, why you had a child with a dark skinned man?' She always had that light skin, dark skin thing. 'Your child gone come out black and ugly.' Shit like that. And I'd be like, what is your problem?"
"Every mom is not created equal. You know what I'm saying? Two weeks ago, I saw my mom. Because she lives two blocks from me, right now. But I hardly see her. I'm driving by in my car and it's like she don't even exist. And I'm like, 'Look at her struggling with those groceries.' Like if me and her was cool, I could've helped her, given her a ride. But my kids were like 'Don't invite her in a car' because my kids don't want anything to do with her either."
NSNC: They've heard about her or they've met her?
"No! They've met her. This recorder is about to cut off. I tried to make an effort. I hadn't spoken to her in years. I had cut everybody off. Her, my brother, my sisters, nobody knew where I was only my Nana knew where I was. And she was concerned like, 'Come back to Barbados. Don't stay there.' And I'm like, 'I'm already here. I have my green card. Let me see what I can make of it.' After I had my son, I went to Barbados because I hadn't been in a long time. So I went for a month. And my sister found out I was there and was reaching out."
NSNC: Why did you cut your siblings off?
"I didn't want to be bothered with anybody. And my sister is that type of person like, although my mother did all that to her, she wants that affection. Even though my aunt was her mom. We were all raised by different people. My mother had nothing to do with it. But my sister, for some reason, she wants that affection from her. But it's like you're never going to get it because that's just who she is."
"And my sister's like, 'Oh, she want to see the kids.' And I'm like blah blah. Whatever. But after my first one was born, I saw her on the street and I started speaking to her or whatever. And she brought up the dark skin again. And I'm like, after all these years of not speaking to me, you should even be grateful that I even entertained you. So now I'm, I have my own place or whatever. And she was about to get evicted. Again. This is the same apartment that I had gotten her, you know, years prior. I didn't like where I was living. And after the second child, me and my babies' father-- it was like, I can't. You know, he didn't have no ambitions and I just was tired of being in the relationship."
"So I told her, I'm looking for an apartment so I'll come and help you catch up on your bills until I can get a place. Because she was hinting at it. So I get over there and I'm like, 'OK, I'll move here for like maybe six months to a year tops before I find my own place. I take my tax money, help her pay off all her bills, help her catch up on her rent, everything."
"Meanwhile I could have took that and went and found my own place. I can't remember what happened, but I did something that she didn't like and she told me, 'This is my house!' and all that. And I'm like, 'What? Are you serious? No, it's ours because I'm paying bills.' And then it was a whole at back to square one. Again.
NSNC: Do you think a part of her resents that you're able to save her financially?
"I think it's a lot. She just don't like me!"
NSNC: But she needs you!
"It doesn't matter what I do. it's always going to be something about me that intimidates her."
NSNC: I wanted to ask you, when you first found out you were pregnant were you scared because you had these mother figures but your own mother was so problematic in your life. Did you feel like, 'I don't know if I'm gonna be able to do this?'
"No, I never felt like that. I only felt like that as far as like financially, like, you know, like 'What am I going to do now?' Like financially, but not as far as like nurturing, raising, loving. It was just a worry of what if I can't provide financially that was my only worry. This is why I don't understand when people say, 'They're unable to love.' You're walking around loving a man, loving your friends, but you can't love your child?! People say 'Oh, because my mother didn't show me love. I don't know how to love you. But then you bounce from relationship to relationship and you're loving a man. That's a lot. Like you get what I'm saying? Even if you’re involved in like an activity. Say like you are a dancer and you go, you know, to do that, you do a job, you're a hairstylist or whatever. You love that. You know what love is. You know what I'm saying? You just didn't want to apply it to that person."
NSNC: What was your mother's relationship like with her mother? Do you know?
"I don't know. I've never met my grandmother, my grandparents from her side because they were in St. Vincent. I think they died when I was really young or even before I was born. But she always talks about her mother, 'Oh, I wish my mother was here today.’ I guess you would say that like to make me-- 'You need to cherish your parents and all that.' And I'm like, cherish what?"
"She always hated my step mom. Like she raised your child, you should be grateful to her. You know what I mean? Even with my kids, you got a second chance with them. Even if you weren't a good mom, you got a second chance. You could be a grandma."
NSNC: How is she with your kids?
Aria just shakes her head.
"My kids don't have no relationship with her. My niece the one she sold, don't want her son to be around her.'
NSNC: I'm sure!
"My sister's other daughter, who's 16, doesn't want to be around her. Like my brother who's in London, they had a relationship. They fell out so none of her kids speak to her. None. My oldest sister is still the only one that's like trying, but then they'll fall out in two seconds and won't speak for years."
When Aria was having problems with her sons’ father taking responsibility for parenting them, she decided to send them to Barbados to live with her Nana for a few years. Nana enrolled them in school and Aria would visit them in the summer. Aria got them dual citizenship. During that time, she and her mother still weren’t speaking.
"So now me and my mom still not speaking, but she gets on a plane and she goes down to Barbados, right. She finds out where they go to school, she show up at the school. So the security guard is there. And he's like, 'Who are you?' You know, cause he knows my Nana. She says, 'Oh, I'm their grandmother. I came down from New York.' You know, she put on an accent or whatever. So he's like,’Uh, ok, hold on one second.’ So he goes to the principal and he says to the principal, ‘Um, you know, this lady here, she said that she's Omari and Amir's grandmother from New York and she wants to see them. What do you think?'"
"So the principal comes out. She takes them out of their classes and asks them, 'Do you know her?' And they like, yeah, you know, like, but hesitant. She takes them into a room, empty room. So they're in one corner and my mother is in the other and the principal is giving them space to talk. About what? What are they talking about?"
NSNC: The principal was really tripping.
"That's what I'm saying. Like you should have made a call to my Nana first. My kids are very smart, so when my Nana picks them up, they say, 'Um Nana, we got something to tell you.' Our grand grandmother Joy come to the school today. And she told us that she came down here to kidnap us. She came to kill you and she's going to take us away from our mom when she goes back to New York. She's going to kill our mom and she gonna kill you. She gonna run over your head with a car and she gonna hit you with a rock in your face.'"
NSNC: Were your kids scared?
"I don't even know because both of them are kind of like me."
"My Nana is very sensitive, like she takes things to heart. So she's like, she tried to be so strong, but she wanted to just cry right there in the car. Like what is this lady telling these kids? So she drives home and I see her calling me. So I'm like 'Hi Nana!' And I'm just getting off of work and she's telling me 'I have something to tell you. I am so upset' and she balling and I'm like what happened?!"
"So she tells me and I was so enraged. I felt like I could get on the first thing smoking and go to Barbados. I felt like I could go there and choke the crap out of her."
NSNC: How old were your sons at this time?
"They were probably seven and eight. So the next morning, I got up First, of all, I said, I'm calling that principal. I told my Nana, go right now to the precinct there and get a restraining order to tell them what's going on. I told her don't sleep on this because she could legit be coming to kill you because my mother is crazy. My mother's legit crazy. I mean she just hadn't been diagnosed. Something is wrong with her, like, seriously. So, Nana goes to the precinct and she's telling them like, what's going on, whatever. And they're like, like brushing it off. 'I don't know what you really want us to do.' So now the chief or whatever, the sergeant that was in charge of all of them, she got a whiff of the story. So she comes out, she's like, 'What were you just saying?' So Nana told her the story. And the sergeant said, 'Oh no, no, no, no, no. She's like, go get the car. My mother was staying in the same neighborhood as a police station. So the lady was like, 'No, I am going to warn her myself and I'm going to give you a restraining order for you to take to the school. She cannot be however many feet away from the school. She can't come to the school. She can'y visit them. Like, no, I'm going to take this serious because don't think she's going to come from New York and disrupt these children's lives.' It always takes a woman to have that soft spot. Them men was like 'I don't know...' Like, you don't understand?! Somebody come to your child's school in such close proximity... suppose she had a gun? Suppose she had a knife? She could have killed the principal and walked out of there with my kids. You never know what is in somebody's brain when they do stuff like that."
"So with that I was done. Like that, right there was the laaaaaaasssst straw for me. So I was like, I don't want nothing to do her. I don't want my kids to have anything to do with her. That was it. So I haven't spoken to her in five years. I don't want no relationship. I'm good."
"So when I saw her struggling with the groceries, I just look at her like 'What a pity.' You getting older. You bore four children and none of them speak to you. 'How do you expect to survive when you get older?' So I'm telling my friend this and he says, 'You gotta show her that you're better than her.' I'm like, I don't have no points to prove to anybody. My point had been proven with my kids. I take care of my kids, you know, I'm a mother to the fullest. That's my point right there."
"I said, 'Are you kidding?' He said, 'Oh, I could never do that to my mother.' I said, 'Yeah, because you don't have the same experience. You cannot judge my experience. I said your mother ever threatened to kill you and kidnap your kids?"
NSNC: Right. What he say?
"But the Bible say says 'Honor your father. And mother.' I said, 'Yeah the Bible also says parents don't provoke your kids to wrath. But you forgot that, right?"
NSNC: You think God don't want me to protect my kids?
"Exactly. Every mother is not created equal."
There's so many mother figures that came into my life. So I don't miss— There's nothing to miss because it was never there.