Her First Chance at Normal

Ericka, eight years old and shy as could be, looked over at the petite brunette woman who she was being told was her sister Kristy. Her sister, the perfectly manicured Lake Tapps resident with token Fire Fighter husband, hadn’t been in her life until this point. Despite this peculiar fact, Kristy was currently fighting for Ericka’s custody. She still felt like a stranger to Ericka since CPS had placed them together after extracting her from their mother’s home. Her calm friendly demeanor and the general sense that she had everything together felt like a stark contrast from Ericka’s mother. But stranger or not, Ericka felt safe and wanted nothing more than to never return to her mother again.

Living with her mother was never stable. The tall, red haired woman with a face sunken in from years of drug use was anything but a mother. The constant stench of overpowering perfume followed her wherever she went to cover up the smell of cigarette smoke and the delusion of responsibilities. Together, they bounced around from house to house in a wave of strange men her mother was involved with. She would disappear for days at a time, leaving Ericka to fend for herself wherever they landed. Taking care of herself wasn’t a new notion to Ericka since she hadn’t witnessed her mother get groceries once let alone cook her whole meals or other basic responsibilities of a parent. Her mother’s priorities were clear and drugs took the first-place slot.

Ericka recalled one instance when they had returned home from a bunch of mysterious errands. Her mother rushed inside the house from the car but when Ericka got out she accidentally shut her thumb in the door, the car locking behind her. She sat there screaming at the top of her lungs but her mother didn’t come. An hour and a half later, a neighbor finally came to help. Rushing inside to get the car keys they saw Ericka’s mom passed out on meth but they just unlocked Ericka’s thumb and left. People keep to themselves in that neighborhood, not wanting any trouble, so Ericka just went inside and waited for her mother to wake up.

Things were different with Kristy and Ericka was encouraged that they could stay together forever with her mother’s recent arrest for prostitution and possession of an illegal substance. At least until one day when Ericka picked up the phone at Kristy’s house and heard her mother’s voice on the other end.

She said she was out of jail and begged Ericka to come home, needing the DSHS checks that came along with her. Her mother had been fighting tooth and nail against letting Kristy adopt Ericka and to this point, Ericka was having to go back and forth between the two homes. When she hung up the phone, Ericka went crying into Kristy’s arms, pleading for her not to make her go back to her mother.

Livid, Kristy immediately picked up the phone calling their mom back, momentarily losing her constant air of calm togetherness. The second she heard her mother’s voice she growled, “If you want any type of custody you can take us to court”. Not waiting for a response, she hung up the phone and that was it. Kristy filed the adoption papers that day and was eventually granted full custody of Ericka. After that, they never looked back.

Today, Ericka is in her senior year at Washington State University, studying human development and counselling. She looks forward to a career in youth counselling for children going through rough starts like hers and hopes to share with them that no matter how hard things might be, they can always get better. She is still overcome with emotion as she recalls memories before Kristy came into her life but her overwhelming happiness shows as she describes the feeling of being normal for the first time.

Ericka looks back fondly at her last moments at WSU as her college career comes to an end. One special memory being the last college Mom’s Weekend and the joy she felt getting to spend time with her mother, Kristy.