| This is the 327th story of Our Life Logs |
I once met a woman named Mary, and Mary was quite contrary. She loved planting and making things grow. We met in LA, and ever since that day, she has made my smile show.
Much like a nursery rhyme, this meeting seemed like it came straight out of a book. I met Mary when I was wandering on the beautiful beaches of Santa Monica, watching the sunset with my one-year-old daughter named Harmonie. I had no idea where I was going or who was coming. I had just run out of money and checked out of a Best Western Hotel where we had been staying. You’re probably wondering why I was staying at such an expensive establishment in a pricey area if I was strapped for cash. The reason is both complicated and straightforward.
I grew up in New Jersey in the 1980s, primarily with my mom and stepdad because my dad had a severe drug problem. These things led me to grow up with low self-confidence. In my 20s, I chased my dream of making it big in the entertainment industry but moved onto the next chapter of my life after falling in love and getting pregnant with Harmonie. I married her father soon after.
The three of us lived in a nice condo in Shasta Lake, California, a beautiful town full of rolling golden hills and tall pine trees surrounded by the most picturesque mountains. My daughter took some of her first steps walking across the iconic Shasta Dam. Deer would often be seen in the redwoods that outline the majestic mountainsides. It was a beautiful place to raise a family, but ours was plagued with verbal and physical abuse. My husband was great at first, but he became abusive over time. Our yells would echo off the walls and made our home into a warzone. After one of our explosive fights in 2008, I grabbed my daughter and ran to my van. I can remember grabbing her pacifier and throwing a few clothes in the van like a mad woman. I strapped her in the car seat, and we were on the freeway quicker than lickity split.
I hopped in my van with our child, and drove 10 hours from Redding, California, to Los Angeles. It happened in the blink of an eye and was probably one of the most impulsive decisions I made in good faith. One moment I was crying and screaming, and the next I was on the road. This decision, made in a moment of fear, was easy to make, but I had no idea what was coming.
Because of my relationship with my daughter’s father and my rough adolescent days, my relationship with my parents was strained. I had no one to go to, so I was prepared to do whatever I had to do to make sure I could have a roof over my head. Even if this meant going to a shelter for women and children who had left an abusive home, it was better than what I had endured. I was in a shelter twice as a little girl living with my mother before she got married and became a registered nurse. But as strong-willed as I was, I secretly wished this was not my reality. I felt for my precious daughter who deserved nothing but the best, and my heart prayed for a miracle that my brain couldn’t hope for. Birds in the sky, they knew how I felt. And I think this is why I was able to keep calm.
Ten hours later we arrived in LA. I did not have a plan, but I had five hundred dollars. I wanted some serenity and a moment of clarity before I went to the shelter life. I decided to take Harmonie on a mini-vacation and stay at the beach, for it was the place that made me the happiest. I checked in an oceanside room for four days. That is all I could afford. I knew there were many cheap hotels all over the town but I did not want to be in danger or feel scared, so I decided to stay someplace that would bring me the most joy and that was the beach.
For three days, I would take Harmonie to the beach every day without panic. I would make my phone calls throughout the day and line up childcare resources so I could look for work and return to my previous places of employment. I knew how to do extra work which paid $100 per day. I had also worked at some upscale restaurants. All the while, Harmonie had the time of her life making friends and being with mommy.
I had so many moments of clarity watching the picture-perfect sunsets. The sea never mourned the setting sun, and this told me that I should not grieve my old life, but accept what is and start fresh.
On the third day, I had to check out the hotel, and they allowed me to have a late checkout, so I could stay until 2:00 PM and then I would have to leave. I had no idea where I would go, and I had called some shelters but they were full, or they needed me to be referred. I decided I would go to the Social Services building and get a referral, but before I did that, I decided to stop at a store and purchase some water.
As I was approaching the store, I noticed a tiny, little woman looking my direction with sympathy in her smile as she watched me struggle to get my sleeping toddler out of the car seat. It was Harmonie’s nap time, and she was fighting to stay awake and stand up. I would have to carry her inside to avoid a meltdown, and I was willing. I grabbed my daughter, quickly walked into the store, grabbed the first big water bottle I saw and stood in line. When I finally looked up, I saw the same woman smiling at me warmly with compassion as she told me to get in front of her. By now, Harmonie’s face was peeking out, and her big brown eyes fixed on this woman too.
“Hello sweetheart,” the lady said, “Are you a sleepy baby?” She went on coddling and smiling, and Harmonie loved the attention. She smiled and laughed and interacted with the lady. After getting rung by the cashier, I proceeded to go to my van and buckle Harmonie in her car seat.
The lady then came to my car and sparked another conversation telling me her name was Mary. She said she was so amazed at how much my daughter Harmonie resembled her daughter, Mia, who was now 21. She proceeded to show me baby pictures of her daughter, and I was shocked at how much they favored each other. She then told me she sold Mary Kay and asked where we lived so she could give me a complimentary facial one day. I nonchalantly explained that we didn’t live anywhere. She was shocked at my one-word answer. It left so many things unanswered. Mary inquired more, and I told her more.
For some reason, I felt comfortable talking with her. I was not embarrassed. She noted how tired Harmonie looked and invited us over to her house so Harmonie could lie down and take a nap while I went to social services to get a referral. She was so kind-spirited and spoke with such humility that I felt very comfortable accepting her offer.
I can remember following her so closely in the thick LA traffic because I was scared that she might change her mind and we would get lost from each other. But when we arrived, I breathed a sigh of relief. Her home was beautiful and spotless. As soon as we got there, she laid Harmonie in her bed as if she had known us all our lives. Harmonie was so comfortable she fell asleep right away. Then she introduced us to her drop-dead gorgeous daughter, Mia, who was the sweetest 21-year-old I had ever spoken with. After the introduction, she went into the kitchen and began cooking a feast for us! She cooked smothered chicken and hot water cornbread with rice and greens! A meal fit for kings and queens!
After we ate, it was so late that Mary asked me if I would like to spend the night. She had no idea that I had run out of money that day and could not even afford a motel room. I accepted her offer to spend the night, and by the next day, she was already so in love with my daughter that she asked me to stay until I found a place of my own. I was shocked and amazed at how this miracle just fell into my lap. She was the mother I never had, the grandmother my daughter longed for, and she was right here in my face given to me by my guardian angels.
I was like Mary’s little lamb. She let me stay with her for nine months while I was able to finish school and find a place of employment that paid me enough to support Harmonie and myself. She never placed judgment on me. Instead, she helped my entire family. Even after I moved out of her house, I moved right around the corner from her, and she became close with my entire family. Mary helped my daughter’s hair grow down her back by braiding it every week, and my daughter calls her Nana to this day. Mary because an extension of my family and she is the kindest person I have ever met.
While I stayed with her, I learned that she has been helping people her entire life. I believe that I was led to Mary, and she helped me get on my feet. My daughter and I have never stepped foot in a shelter. This was something I did not plan, but without her, my story would have been much different.
Today, I am happily married to a wonderful man, with whom I raise our four beautiful children. I work to help women live to be the best version of themselves, just as Mary had done for me. While we have since moved to Las Vegas, I still contact Mary on the regular. I will always be grateful for the kindness I received during the most difficult hours in my life and the friendship I gained because of it.
This is the story of Melodie Hunter
Melodie grew up in California, spending time in shelters as a young girl before her mother was able to get on her feet. Years later, when Melodie found herself in an abusive marriage, she packed her one-year-old daughter in her van and drove to LA, knowing full well that she might have to put her daughter through a similar childhood as she had herself. However, the kindness of a stranger was more than a miracle for Melodie. The stranger opened up her home and helped Melodie get back on her feet, wanting nothing but her happiness in return.
This story first touched our hearts on March 1, 2019.