by Sonne T. Hart on October 18, 2011

This is for everyone out there who has had to leave home for the first time;  some of you because you wanted to and others of you who had no choice.

Let me start by telling you this story is about my paternal grandmother (Minnie May) whom I always called Ma Maw as did all her grandchildren.

My Ma Maw and I were sitting in her big warm kitchen drinking coffee.  It was boiled coffee made in a percolator pot without the basket and without a doubt the best coffee I’d ever had. This particular day I brought up the subject of leaving home.  I was eighteen at the time and getting ready to go away to college; it would be my freshman year and my very first time away from home.  It was a giant step for me and I was more than a little anxious.  So there I sat feeling sorry for myself and dumping it all on my grandma.

The coffee grounds had settled to the bottom of the pot and the second cup of coffee was even better than the first.  While I sat boo-hooing my woes to her, she looked over the table at me and said, so matter of fact, “I was only thirteen when I left home.”  My mouth fell open and my eyes got big and I choked on the drink I’d just taken.  “Why? Why would you leave home at such a young age?” I asked her.

“Sometimes we just don’t have a choice,” she said, “my stepdad told my mom, “Minnie goes or I go.”  I listened to her in awe as she continued her story.  Not a pretty one I must say. Ma Maw’s stepdad was a mean old man.  My grandmother never came right out and said he tried to sexually abuse her, but she called him a lecher.  Ma Maw said she rebuffed him and from that moment on he hated her.  Afterwards her stepdad did what he could to hurt her, ergo the ultimatum to her mother.

I still had to ask why her mother didn’t fight for her; she answered, “Mom had us four kids with my Dad and then four more with my stepdad, eight kids to clothe and feed, her choice was simple – she needed him more than she needed me.”

My eyes grew moist and my throat clogged as she continued with her story.  Ma Maw packed her bag with what clothes she had and set out for her grandma’s house where she stayed until she could make further arrangements. After a few weeks she got a ride into the nearest town where she got a job cleaning houses.  She and a friend of hers rented rooms in private homes until they saved enough money to buy one way tickets to Pittsburgh, PA on the train.  In Pittsburgh my grandma got a job as a maid for a doctor and his wife and worked for them for many years until she met my grandfather.

Ma Maw’s moral and her advice to me, “You can do whatever life throws at you if you set your mind to it, believe in yourself and don’t ever give up.  It will make you strong,” she told me. Needless to say, I left home and went off to college and I have moved many times since then.

Her words of truth and wisdom have resonated through my heart always, you can do whatever you set your mind to do and you’re never too old or too young to try something new.

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