She was a good student and would have been better if she hadn't slept through class. But she worked third shift. She didn't work for a car or nice clothes. She worked to survive. Her mother was dead and she had no idea where her father was. Her aunts sometimes helped her out but she was pretty much on her own. I let her sleep. When she was present, she was amazing. Funny and warm. She was able to grasp literature in an intuitive way that most high school students just can't figure out.
One day I had them write an essay about their happiest moment. She wrote about the time she and her mother got evicted from their apartment. She was ten and they came home after her mother picked her up from school. There was a notice on the door and a big padlock. This had happened before so it wasn't a big surprise. Her mom and her went out and walked around until it got dark. They picked up some hot dogs and marshmallows. Once it was dark, they went back to the apartment and broke in to the place that had been home. There they snuggled in blankets around a propane stove and had hot dogs and marshmallows. "It was like camping." she wrote. "Or what I had imagined camping would be like as we had never been camping." Later they snuggled together for warmth and in the morning, they gathered up what they could carry and left before anyone else was up. This was a moment of intimacy for this girl. A moment where she was close with her mother.
I cried when I read this essay. At the time I cried because it seemed so pathetic that this was happiness. But now I stifle a tear because sometimes you need those reminders of what is important.