When I was 7 years old, my mom woke my sister and me in the middle of the night and told us to pack our belongings into the black garbage bags she handed to us. “And be as quiet as you can,” she told us. We were leaving our abusive stepfather for the first of what would become many times. That night, we drove 200 miles to a close family friend who had offered us her living room couch as a safe space to regroup.
Four years later, the same stepfather left us. After beating our mom, he abandoned us in a home with rent we couldn’t afford without him. It was winter, and our heating bills skyrocketed. Free lunch at school was the primary nourishment for my sister and I during those cold months.
Over the past months, I have imagined what these two crisis moments for our family