A MOTHER’S LAMENTThe following is a letter written by a mother who lost custody of her two youngest children, reminiscing of the times they spent together, their life in Ocean Springs. Because her ex-husband “appeared” to be able to afford the children a larger home, and, because it “appeared” the mother was unable to do so comparably due to her inability to recover from her loss when Katrina swept the gulf coast. In 2011 she lost custody of her children, and was limited to visits on an every other weekend basis, but only to the tri-county area of Rankin, Madison and Hinds, and no overnight visitation, I suppose for fear she would remove the children from the jurisdiction of the court. She spent her life’s savings, over $45,000 dollars in attorney fees and the fees of Guardian Ad Litems appointed by the court to investigate and report their findings to the court for the purpose of assisting the court in determining the best interest of the children and which parent would be more suitable for their care. The first Guardian Ad Litem gave her a favorable report and recommended to the Court that the children be placed in her custody, but the second Guardian Ad Litem, for some reason, chose her ex-husband over her, and the Court favored this last report and her ex-husband one out, mainly because, in her opinions, he had a large, lovely home in Madison County and had the funds to raise the children, whereas, due to her circumstances, she did not. That was years ago and she has been fighting to recover their custody since that time. This is a lament of her efforts and the pain that she has suffered in that pursuit. It is addressed to a friend of hers, and to her older daughter by a previous marriage. It begins with the ending of one of her recent visits with her young, twelve year old daughter:
“Tonight, as I drove Miranda back to Madison, stroking her hair as her head lay over the armrest, stretching toward me as close as her seatbelt would allow like she always does on those drives after our brief “visits” are over, I vowed to begin writing, again. It is one of a few passions of mine for which I have slowly turned away from. My other favorites were put away much more abruptly. My present demeanor may be disheveled, at times, but my memory is as sharp as a tack, like it has always been. I recount my life events by dates, sometimes even down to the hour and minute, of ‘before’ and ‘after’ events. Fishing, which always included some form of beach walking and nature exploration (which meant cardio exercise and fresh air as a bonus), ended the last time I went with my youngest daughter Miranda. I haven’t allowed myself to recreate that particular memory down to the time and date, but I know it was with her, and I know that it ended as abruptly as the day we were separated, within minutes, by a court that wrenched us apart in November 28th, 2011.
Listening to music, especially bayou-zydeco and country-western, old gospel hymns, and really old country ho-down music (that I was always tickled to hear my kids sing to as well), and having amassed quite of collection of downloads, cd’s, and 2 great stereo’s that I wired together. I had quite the talent for setting up surround-sound and wiring “outdoor” speakers in nooks and crannies along the outside of our home. This talent was acknowledged and admired by even the most manly men in our neighborhood and teenaged boys with jack-up trucks and booming sound systems, my kids were quite proud of their mom’s sound-wiring skills, and every night, summer, spring, winter or fall, we enjoyed sitting outside by a fire …. for just a few minutes to a few hours, listening to, and singing along to “our” songs. We always seemed to have extra’s, company, whether invited or not … the kids friends, their friends of friends, their parents, our neighbors…. somehow, our music and outside supper’s became an international “welcome” sign in our yard and drew wanderers in like magnets. The kids loved it and I never minded. It was a peaceful, simple time and I take some comfort knowing with all certainty that I made mental notes all the time to “stop, and ENJOY them”. I am so very grateful for that. My love of music, as well as my infamous “sing-along’s” was severely restricted after my 12 year old son, Philip, went missing, or, for a better term, was “parentally abducted and never returned”, June 4, 2010. I continued to enjoy some music with my young daughter, Miranda after that date but it was limited to music that would NOT remind me of my only son, Philip. That was difficult time but I made it work for the next 17 months and Miranda and I found our “own” music that we belted out every day. The music ended completely, November 28, 2011, the date my young daughter was “legally” taken by the court system. I have not been able to bring myself to listen, or sing, since then. The world became very dark, and very quiet, and remains that way.
Music always brought me great joy. Yard work, and gardening, of which I spent a great deal of time enjoying in all seasons and was quite talented in and for which I took great pride in, ended when I boxed up my belongings with the help of my oldest daughter Jessica, this past April 2012, after making the decision to end the burdensome, travel to and from the Coast that had been unavoidable since the day Miranda and I were separated November 28, 2011 when she was ordered to live with her father in Madison Mississippi. I struggled valiantly for months to keep up our home in Ocean Springs, waiting day to day, week to week, chasing the “15-day reversal of opinion” I’d been assured by attorneys was certain to happen due to the many errors and fraudulent claims made in court that led to the removal of both of my minor children, Philip and Miranda, in the first place. I had always been their primary caregiver, a full-time, stay at home mother to both of them for the first early years of their lives. As the days and weeks turned into months, and the certain “presentation of the real facts” and the “testimony of real witnesses” that would at the very least show his contempt of court and have the judge make good on his promise to reverse his opinion and return the children to me failed to come forward, and with these failures, my dreams for keeping our home, our very lives as we knew it, began to dissipate. In addition to the near-weekly frantic drives I made those first few months after November 2011 to Jackson in order to be near my youngest child due to her very real, very serious medical, emotional, and/or legal emergencies that began years before but escalated to the point where she required hospitalization. The catalyst, for young Miranda, and as diagnosed by her caring pediatrician and mental health professionals on the Coast, appeared to occur leading up to and as a result of events surrounding July 16, 2010 in which Miranda made a courageous, terrifying, middle of the night escape from her father home. Miranda and her brother, Philip had not been returned from a 4-day vacation with their father in which they left June 4, 2010. Miranda had been denied, even spied upon to ensure she couldn’t sneak phone contact for six weeks until she managed to sneak a phone to make one frantic call to me and plead with me to come get her that night. I immediately notified Madison authorities and set out, with a dear friend and neighbor to accompany me to retrieve my daughter. We found Miranda at 4 a.m., crouching behind bushes at the edge of her father’s subdivision, in her pajamas, alone and very afraid. Because I held legal custody of Miranda and her 12 year old brother Philip, as I had since their birth, local police supported me in this endeavor, even encouraging me to stay long enough to grab my son too. Police have no authority to rescue, actively “assist”, as in, bust doors down, etc. in situations such as ours and they are no strangers to despicable acts such as these by parents. It’s understandable how frustrated they must surely feel over their limitations, their inability to actively help. They are only trained to refer frantic parents, and children, to “take it up in family court”.
Having my young daughter creep out of dark shadows and dart into our waiting vehicle and into my arms was the most frightening, joyous relief I have ever experienced. Our joy was immense. I climbed into the backseat of the SUV to embrace my daugher as my friend, Karen, pointed the truck in the direction home, south, to Ocean Springs. The three of us watched the sunrise as we neared the Gulf Coast. It remains one of the most beautiful images imbedded in my memory for all time. Miranda and I softly sobbed as I held and rocked her in the backseat during the entire drive. I learned then how truly possible it is feel incredible joy and excruciating sorrow at the same time. We all shed tears for the one we left behind …. Philip. Little did we know then that Philip would never be returning home but I consider that ignorance merciful these days and cherish the memory, the reunion, and the desperate hope we were able to share for what was to be a very short period of time. We had no way of knowing then that Miranda would be callously, brutally, heartlessly removed by the court system and placed back into the very home that she had just escaped.
That night of our reunion and on the drive home, it felt as if Miranda and I had been apart for much longer than six and half weeks. I suppose when you are denied even phone contact, and continually threatened by an angry, seemingly empowered adult, a parent, an ex-spouse, that you will in fact never again be reunited as mother and child, it would be normal to feel as if six weeks was in fact an eternity. It felt like one. This was only compounded by the terrible void, guilt, of leaving without Philip. It felt like a betrayal to me, as a mother, for accepting the joy of one “returned rescued child” and I continue to feel incredible sorrow over what-ifs and how’s. I’ve no doubt my daughter struggles similarly, even more intensely as her agonies surely stem from the fact that she did make a choice that fateful night to go against her father’s command, pressure, demands, and betrayed her brother as well by appearing to “sneak” away. In some sense, Miranda, only nine years old at that time, was in fact forced to make a choice, a cruel, unnecessary choice that no young child should ever feel desperate enough to have to make. Miranda’s beloved brother to whom she was as close as a twin, my little boy, my only son, barely twelve years old on the day he and his sister set out for that “impromptu” vacation some six weeks before, June 4, 2010, never to return to us, to home, his room, his friends, our loved ones and in the year and a half since. Philip and I were cut off from all communication for over 15 months. That is a very long time for a mother and child. There was a brief time, after the custody switch, when some visitation was attempted between the months of January 2012 and May 2012 but it was sporadic and restricted to the day-time hours every other weekend and we were not “allowed” to go home, forced to visit in parks, malls, bookstores. Not very appealing to a child under the best of circumstances, much less a confused, heavily-influenced pre-teen boy. Our visits soon tapered off and all contact ceased in May of 2012, shortly after Philip’s 14th birthday. No one in authority ever intervened, or objected to this severing of so many bonds, this total destruction of a family. The devastation of such a thing is indescribable and I will not even try to do so here.
These sorrowful events, our history, the shocking custody “switch” in November 2011, and all the seemingly inexplicable, compounding shocking acts and tragedies that followed seemed to encircling me and my children, shrinking our world to the tiniest possible proportions, and it slowly became clear to me that I could not continue to “stay home” and keep house while driving to and fro.175 miles each way. Looking back, that is one of several things that astound me… that I even managed to hang on to the dream for as long as I did. Yes, the gardening was a great loss to my spirit and my body… but, the real joy in it ended the same time the music ended, November 2011. I continued to manicure my lawn for a time, and fretted over its condition after my daughter’s disappearance from our home in November 2011, but my heart was no longer in it and I gave it up completely when I boxed up our life and closed the door for good in early April 2012.
My love of crocheting, which I recently picked back up due to the odd timing of a double urging and suggestion of two important people in my life who have never even met one another, yet who each brought up the topic within the same 24 hour period just weeks before this past Christmas Eve. The urging was by a friend who coaxed me into attending a small Christmas gathering at her home the night before Christmas Eve, and the suggestion was made by my oldest daughter, Jessica, who mused about my ability to “create” the newest craze of baby beanie hats that is so popular and in demand among all her co-workers and friends. I have been a longtime believer of there-is-no-such-thing-as-coincidence so I paid heed to the sign before me and picked up my crochet needle, junk yarn from the back of my truck, and, with some help from Google, proceeded to crochet intently throughout this very difficult time of year… a Christmas without my children. Christmas without my closest friends. Christmas away from home. Homesick, Heartsick, and … Christmas without my children. Thank you, Arlette, and Thank You, Jessica. Your blessing and gift to me put an idea and a desire in my mind that thankfully I did not turn away from. It helped me survive the most heartbreaking Christmas of my life. Little Blessings…. count them one by one:)