"You Don't Know How Good You've Got It, Kid"

Delta Winds cover 2016Delta Winds: A Magazine of Student Essays
A Publication of San Joaquin Delta College


"You Don't Know How Good You've Got It, Kid"

Kayla King

For many people, the phrase "only child" may conjure up an image of lonely youngsters who resort to having imaginary friends for company. They are generally spoiled and have issues with the concept of sharing. They are socially awkward (and probably pale) gadflies, starving for attention and validation. And as an only child, I can confirm all of these stereotypes as pretty accurate. Being the only child of a single parent had both advantages and disadvantages. Yes, I was lonely. But what I lacked in company I made up for in toys. In one of my childhood homes, I had a whole playroom to myself, complete with a small stage and my own ball pit. It wasn't until I became older that I realized that this wasn't exactly "normal." It's not that my mom wanted me to become a privileged brat; she made a point to remind me that I should appreciate what I had and to consider myself lucky. In many ways she wanted to give me the childhood she was never allowed to have.

Kimberly Ann King was born on November 12th, 1959, in Miami, Florida. The third of five children, she was raised by a struggling single mother and an abusive father who came around when it was convenient. But even through poverty and abuse, my mother remained positive. One of her earliest memories is having a government employee deliver a box of food to the two-room apartment they all lived in on Christmas day. She still smiles when talking about how grateful she was for that box and the joy it brought her brothers and sisters. She likes to reminisce about the "quiet times," when father wasn't around to beat them and when mommy wasn't crying. She chose to block out many of the traumatic events in her childhood in an effort to keep those demons from taking control of her. The only thing my mother has ever wanted is to be happy.

As she grew older, life became more complicated. Her mother became an alcoholic and started bringing strange men around. My mom, although not the oldest of her siblings, stepped up and took on a maternal role. At the age of twelve, she lied about her age to a manager at White Castle so she could make extra money to feed her siblings. She worked tirelessly for years, and once her mother got used to the extra income, it was expected that my mom would work to contribute to the household. Meanwhile, my grandmother was barely holding onto her job as a nurse and still spending most of her free time going out with her various boyfriends. My mom was the one who picked up her younger siblings from school and made sure they always had clean clothes to wear. She was more of a mother to them than their real mother ever was.

At the age of 17, my mom decided that it was time for her to finally live her life for herself, so she left her mother and siblings behind. She was able to get a cheap apartment with a friend and relished the freedom she had. It was the '70s in Miami, and she had no shortage of outlets for all that pent up teenage rebellion. She would go from working a ten-hour shift to drinking and dancing until five in the morning. Eventually the wild child lifestyle caught up with her, and she was left wanting more from her life. It was at this point that she decided to join the Air Force. She was trained as an aircraft mechanic, traveled around the world, and finally felt content with her life.

After eight years as a mechanic in the Air Force, she came to Stockton to start a new life as an Air Force recruiter. She hated it. My mother had always preferred to work with her hands rather than to be stuck in an office. At the same time, the Stockton UPS building was trying to meet a quota of female drivers, and the driver who delivered to her recruitment office told her about the position. She applied for an early release from the Air Force and started working at UPS.

Soon after getting her new job, she met Marty, her second husband (the first being a three-month-long fling during her time in the Air Force). Marty had a small construction company and three children from a previous marriage. Instead of being intimidated by the thought of having stepchildren, my mother rose to the occasion and did everything in her power to make them happy. But even with a ready-made family, she still wanted children of her own. She wanted five or six kids, the kind of group she had grown up with. But Marty didn't want any more children. He'd had a vasectomy a few months before he met my mom and refused to have it undone. This was heartbreaking to my mother, but she stayed with him anyway.

Then, later on in their relationship, Marty's behavior became unusual. He turned possessive and didn't like her to leave the house when she wasn't working. And when she was working, he would have her call him when she was about to leave and use a stopwatch to see how long it took her to get home every day. If she took an extra five or ten minutes to get home, he would accuse her of infidelity. He abused her emotionally. She knew she should get out of the relationship, but she still loved him through it all. Finally, eight years after they had started dating and six after they got married, he confessed to her that he had been having a two-year-long affair with his secretary. That was the final straw. My mom packed her bags and never looked back.

It was 1995 and my mother was thirty-five and divorced for the second time in her life. The prospect of dating terrified her, but she still craved motherhood. She decided that she would take the matter into her own hands and get artificially inseminated. She was making a substantial salary working for UPS and felt confident in her decision. But one fateful night at a work party changed her plans a bit. She went home with a younger male co-worker and found out she was pregnant two weeks later. He had no interest in being a father at his age, and even encouraged her to get an abortion. But there was no stopping my mom. She was overjoyed to finally be pregnant and allowed him to renounce any legal obligations to the baby. To her baby. When I was born nine months later, she gave me the middle name "Seraphina," the Hebrew word for the most powerful angels in Heaven. To her I was more than just the product of too many margaritas; I was a miracle.

Looking at my mother and me, you would think we have nothing in common. She has calloused hands from years of working what many consider to be a "man's job," while I just get the occasional hand cramp from long nights typing essays. She spends very little time on herself, insisting that there are more important things in the world, while I spend an hour and a half getting ready to meet my public every day. But despite all of this, I am my mother's daughter. She gave me both my love of art and my raunchy sense of humor. She taught me to have compassion towards everyone, even if I don't think they deserve it. She never let me believe that I was anything less than extraordinary. She was a mother, a father, a drill sergeant, a teacher, and a friend. And while I don't plan to model my life after hers, I can appreciate everything she went through in order to give me all that I have now. My mother's life was in no way an easy journey, but she has never failed to make the most of every moment. The only thing my mother ever wanted was to be happy, and she is.