She’s divorced, destitute, has lost custody of her children, sucks booze down like its water, and is an all-round “problem child” — willful, petulant, throws raging tantrums. She holds no degree in anything, much less a high school diploma. Not even a GED.
Two years later, she’s pregnant by a guy who has just been released from the pen after serving time for embezzlement. After a hard gestation, a baby girl is born. The woman decides to go to school, gets her GED, goes on to study school administration, secures a degree, is hired as a counselor, continues her education until she qualifies and secures a job as a principal at a school for low achievers — mostly populated by the children of migrant workers.
Throughout this time, the woman returns home for visits, bringing the child with her each year. By ten months, the child is beginning to scream…a LOT. By two, the child is willful and resists guidance — pretty typical for a two-year-old. By three and four, this resistance has turned into defiance. By five and six, the child lies, sneaks, and steals…and, if corrected by someone other than her mother, strikes out with physical violence, lambasting Grandma and Auntie, too. By eight, the child is leading other children into trouble — climbing onto roofs, breaking windows…. I witness this child push her younger cousin off the roof after luring him up there. (He survives.)
Mom and daughter, plus husband move back with Grandms laying claim to grandma’s property…or trying to. Securing another counselling job with the local school district, the lady wants to be a principal again. Her choice of school? The juvenile delinquent’s “alternative” high school. “They need a strong hand to get them on the right path,” she says. (She’s still sucking down booze like it’s water.)
Now the neighborhood gets to witness the woman’s handling of her child, who is as willful and out of control as the lady was herself as a teen, Grandma tells us. One hears screaming. Child runs out the door, mother hot on her tail. When mom catches up, child crouches down and covers her head with her hands, begging, “Please, please. Don’t hit me. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to,” and so on. Mom has her fist raised, screaming at the child, but stops suddenly when she sees the neighbors watching. She bends over, grabs the kid by the hair, and drags her back inside.
This is not a woman who needs to be principal of any school, nor a counselor, either. Ultimately, though, the lady does get a job as principal, not at the alternative high school, but at the regular middle school.
Now, remember, the above is a true account, not fiction. …So this is the kind of stuff that feeds my books — real life happenings I’ve witnessed, or which I’ve seen part of the scenario and get filled in on the rest by the neighbors and relatives talking about the family’s history.