By Jessica Newsome
When I found myself in desperate and sudden need of new housing last year I did not panic. It took me exactly one week to go from newly single to moved out, because I am not a masochist.
But also because my brother is allergic to Neosporin.
When I was 15 years old my mother tried to leave my father for the Xth time. We said goodbye to our few friends at church; we were homeschooled that year so we didn’t have to switch schools. We moved in with my aunt and we were as we always have been—the Brady Bunch but with ten homeschooled kids and their moms. I loved it—I thought we would be like pioneers, like Laura Ingalls Wilder, that we would be poor but that we wouldn’t have to worry about my dad anymore—that we’d be safe and poverty would be a little more noble, with a little more purpose than it had when my parents were together.
We made it about two weeks.
My brother injured himself somehow. I don’t remember how, only that it was one of those kid injuries you put Neosporin and a bandaid on until the bandaid falls off a day later and you don’t even remember it.
Except that my brother is allergic to Neosporin, which we didn’t know at the time. My mother would faithfully wash the wound, change the bandaid and put on a little bit of Neosporin to help it heal—but it didn’t.
And because we’d left in a hurry, in the middle of the day when my dad was at work, she didn’t have her health insurance cards. Or maybe it was because he wouldn’t let her have them, or because he called the insurance company and took her off of his coverage when he came home and found that we had left. I don’t remember.
But I remember the wound on my brother’s arm growing bigger and bigger, getting angrier and angrier, and how he would scream at my mother when she would change the bandaid.
I don’t remember exactly why my mother didn’t apply for medical insurance through the state. Maybe it was because she wasn’t ready to file for legal separation from my dad. Maybe she was still against getting help from the government. Maybe she didn’t even think of it, or of calling up doctors to see how much it would cost for them to see my brother and figure out what was wrong.
I just remember the drive back from my aunt’s house, the doctor who finally told us what was wrong with my brother’s skin, and how I told myself I would never trust my mother again.
But now I’m 28, which is about how old she was when she had four children, ages 8, 6, 4, and 2—which is when she left my dad for the first time. And I have a new understanding of how strong she must have been to do it once, much less the dozens of times that I remember.
I’ve had a savings account since I moved to Chicago, that I have grown steadily, that I always saved for the next time my incorrigible ex had a meltdown. I always thought it was a sweet thing, in case we ever needed to just get away, or if he really needed to quit the job he found so taxing. I never thought I’d use it for me—that the next time he unequivocally cut something out of his life without a warning or a two weeks notice—that it would be me he’d be leaving and not another job.
But when he did, I remembered that too-short drive back home.
And I forgave myself a little for forgetting it.
And I forgave my mother a little more for going back.
Jessica Newsome is a social worker who lives in Chicago, IL. She is not attached to any other writing projects at the moment but to read her outdated blog you can visit renaissance-muse.blogspot.com. Or you can try to follow her protected Twitter, @jess_news. She’s currently working on a better way to connect with readers.