Hollow Aches

Kamryn Hannigan


Kamryn Hannigan

Kamryn Hannigan , Staff Writer

The earliest memory I have of the woman who gave birth to me is not even of the woman herself. I remember the stench of smoke better than I do her homemade cookies, and I remember the silent tears that made cold trails down my cheeks and off my nose, better than I do her embrace. I remember the bright lights – red and blue, better than I do her smile.

I remember just how much I don’t get to remember.

This woman is not dead. She was an addict – addicted to everything but her own four children. A variety of family members in Louisiana passed me around as a young child: two sets of superhero grandparents, a great-aunt and uncle and my dad. My mother could not raise a child, but my extended family always managed to swoop in and save the day. The days she forgot to make dinner or slept through breakfast, the people who didn’t have to care for me did.

To grow up without a mother sounds like a terrible feat, but my extended family provided everything I needed. Strong females surrounded me, loved me and made it easy to convince myself that I didn’t much care for my own mother anyways. She would visit me from time to time– usually when she wanted something– but, she would always disappear as quickly as she came. After a while, the anger stopped, the hurt stopped. Her antics became another annual event, fun while they lasted, but they left a hollow ache at their close.

I began to feel it again recently. The whisper of pain. The flash of an ugly scar long since healed. At 16 years old I have lived through a few accomplishments, and I have lived through a few failures – all my birth mother missed. Every opening night and every report card was lost on her. I am not bitter or upset necessarily. It reminds me of looking through a photo album with one person’s face blurred out. I know something should appear, but exactly what is unclear, so I wonder and wait for the pieces to fall into place. Luckily, I do not have to solve the puzzle on my own.

When I turned 7 years old a new superhero entered my story, Ash’Lee Fetty. A woman from Texas with a quiet voice and a warm smile. I did not understand what her entrance into my life meant, but I knew she made my dad happy. He came around more often which was enough for me. Before I knew it, she married into the family. This transition proved, for lack of a better word, difficult. I did not live in a stable environment for long and my grandparents wanted to ship me off to a new state with a new family.

As I attempted to figure myself out through the years, Ash’Lee’s relationship with me came with its rough patches, but it was real. She stood by my side even when I did not want her to, a strange contrast to the relatively non-existent relationship my birth mother and I shared. We did not always get along, a trait most parent-child relationships share, but she provided me with a type of motherly love and care I never experienced before. She became my new mother.

This woman is very much alive. She shows up every time I need her to. She cooks the best sausage and rice casserole that smells like home. She defines beauty and her hugs keep me grounded when nothing else will. My mother did not give birth to me, but she accepted me as if she did.