Finding courage in my mother’s strength

By Marily Lopez
Los Angeles, Calif.

I woke to the sound of my father’s voice on the phone, whispering, “Marily, take care of your sisters while I’m gone. I love you.” As an eight-year-old in Sleeping Beauty pajamas, I was confused. I fell back asleep thinking I was going to wake up to just another morning of my mom and dad sharing a kiss and laughing about my little sister’s ridiculous bedhead. I thought the next day we would all be eating dinner and giggling about how my mom dropped her dinner plate all over her shirt and our dog licked food off her.

Instead, I woke up, and I saw my sister’s bloodshot eyes. She had cried herself to sleep. Confused, I went into the kitchen, embraced my mom and felt her cold tears on my small shoulders. Suddenly, I realized that this change was permanent. From here on out, it would only be my mom, my two sisters and me.

That morning, my mom went back to work. She had the newfound responsibility of supporting three kids on one income as a single parent. During the day, she diligently typed notes as a Los Angeles Unified School District secretary, and at nights she worked toward obtaining a college education in stenography.

As a result, my mom came home every night exhausted. But she always remained upbeat. Smiling from ear to ear, she used to show me what she was learning in her stenography class. “If you press this button, an ‘a’ will come out, and if you press this button and this button altogether, it types out the word ‘cat,’” she would say, with happiness overflowing in her brown eyes.

Through her actions, my mom taught me to make the best out of the worst situations. She showed me to get back up and not let an obstacle stand in the way of my dreams.

In the years since my father left, I have taken on the responsibility of caring for my sisters — Jackie, who was three at the time, and Michelle, who was 11. I combed Jackie’s hair and helped her with her schoolwork, and I tried to help Michelle express her emotions when she began to rebel. At the same time, I studied hard in school and developed a love of writing and teaching, and I now tutor fourth and fifth graders at the nearby elementary school.

Looking ahead, I know my future is bright. I want to attend a top college and become a writer or teacher. My mom’s example has inspired me to pursue my passions and believe in myself. She’s taught me that with optimism and determination, I can achieve my dreams. I will not only make her proud, but myself as well.

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