Your story isn’t perfect, no story with meaning ever is, but it’s yours, and that’s reason enough to cherish it. Cherish it, we have too. No one else will. Those distant from and closist to our culture will judge you as a stereotype: A black woman who had her first child as a teen and two more unwed. I do believe there is some truth in all stereotypes, but it certainly isn’t the whole truth. It certainly isn’t the whole you. Who you were, who you are, and who you are becoming is a story of hurt and hope, love and lust, unhealthy family ties and finding one’s true self. In essence, it’s not just your story, it’s your mother’s story, our sister’s story, explored and expounded on so that our daughters won’t repeat this story. And although you, a beautiful queen, is the subject matter, it’s not just a feminine story. Without you, I see myself, not on a romantic level of love poems and rose petals, but the parallels of our process and our progress binds us into a union. Coming of Age The first time I laid eyes on you, you were fourteen, I was thirteen. It was the summer of “98” and you were exiting the 27th street bus on your way to my house. I watched you exit the bus and walk north in my direction. As I sat on my porch on the opposite corner of the bus stop, I watched you sashay my way. You were draped down in a floral pattern summer dress and sandals separated your precious feet from the piercing hot concrete. As you walked my way, I first noticed your length (tall like a model), then your rich brown skin (smooth and soft), as you got closer, I noticed a face without blemish, and ultimately I observed your smile that wasn’t seductive or pretentious, but authentic. It was one of those smiles that made other people smile when they witnessed it. On the surface all was picture perfect. But beneath your surface was a scar and many more scabs delivered to you in your childhood, by witnessing the brutal beatings of your mother by the hand of your father. Then having your mother verbally abuse you by saying you never liked her because you “supposedly” sided with your father during those beatings. How does a girl process that Shamela? Where did you store that pain, in what areas of your body is it hidden? And while the beatings may have stopped, you watched and were victim to your parents’ addiction. Your father is still plagued with addiction. Your mother recovered, but it seems like a part of her was lost forever. She lost a piece of herself somewhere Shamela, and a part of you was lost too. A womanchild can’t go through trauma and come of age healthy without help, without healing. Neither can a manchild. My trauma began when I was a child. There were times when my foster brother used to beat my siblings and I during mother’s work hours. As a child, I told myself that once I got older I was going to get payback. But as I came of age, I wasn’t possessed by revenge, and revenge didn’t prevail. What prevailed were feelings of weakness that overcame me when I couldn’t protect my younger siblings. It’s a feeling that I still deal with, a feeling that resurfaced when my [younger] brother committed suicide in ‘09. Bullying was one of the hands that pushed him over the edge. A fleeting thought was I should smash my foster brother for causing a pain I never processed. During this period of abuse, I witnessed the actual death of my father and didn’t process that either. I didn’t speak to a close loved one or a professional. I didn’t have the words at the time. That’s why children should have healthy adults around, to help them understand themselves, and the events shaping them. My mother underwent trauma in her childhood and early adult years. She buried her only true love. The head of my home and my life was suffering from age-old pain. She loved me dearly, but in areas she didn’t deal with in her own life, she couldn’t help me deal with mine in my life. All these events we carried with us, and they merged the day you and I met. We started to date and eventually you began to run your mother’s daycare. You were valued by her based on how much you worked, not on how much you were truly worth. So you devalued your worth, and for a while your dysfunction was your guiding force. Our dysfunction was our guiding force. Yours led you to look for love in men. Mine led me to look for fatherly or brotherly love in the streets. We were looking for others to give us something that we first had to give ourselves. In the end, I ended up trying to be like the older homies, which led me to prison at the age of seventeen. You had your first child with one of the older homies at the age of seventeen. We bear the same tribal scars that stem from similar sources and both went down the wrong path. Yours was expressed on a feminine level, mine on a masculine one. As our coming of age story is similar so too is our moment of clarity, Moment of Clarity Your moment of clarity came to you after a troubled breakup. I don’t know the details of that breakup, but what I do know is that the experience hurt you on one hand and helped you on the other. You recognized the severity of this hurt and sought counseling. ou didn’t look for another man to replace the last but [rather] sought out counseling in order to heal from the relationship. Your breaking point was symbolized through that breakup. It wasn’t the breakup alone. In that moment you broke away from all the events in your life that tried to break you. That break up provided you with a moment of clarity that was necessary. Because you acted in a healthy way, Shamela, you turned one of your worst moments into one of your best moments. Being sentenced to 25 years inside a cage at age 17 for my horrendous behavior was traumatizing. So much so, I knew I needed to change. Realizing prison wasn’t designed to rehabilitate a man, but to him down was my moment of clarity. Now I’m 28 and my primary accomplishment is my mental, emotional, and spiritual up-liftment. My bond with your children, helping “our prince” navigate through the troubled waters of Milwaukee is our highest accomplishment. I once asked Trevon what is it he likes about our relationship and he said, “You teach me how to be a man.” The funny thing is by observing your womanhood Shamela, I learn more about my manhood. You are now 29 and an entrepreneur with the goal of going back to school for your BA. As a mother you are protecting, providing and pushing your children in the right direction. As a woman you are growing into a Goddess by loving yourself more and by discovering your true worth. My queen, I wouldn’t say we are soul mates. We don’t share a love story, we share a life story. What I will say is that we are soul material for each other. What I am trying to say is that we are reflections of each other.