Column: Coming home at last

‘And although I didn’t realize it right away, in this process of saving her, she saved me.’


Andrea Plascencia

"She didn’t deserve to be tossed around because those around her found her inconvenient, or because they couldn’t seem to get their act together. She deserved a home."

It was late May. Not quite summer yet, but the heat was beginning to set in. “Cool,” I thought, “no air conditioning.” Talk about an inconvenience.

Looking back on it, I was pretty naive for thinking this was the only inconvenience which would be shoved in my face during the summer, but hear me out. Most of my summers until then had been boring, vacationless and just flat out unmemorable. I had no reason to believe this summer would be any different, but it was.

My house is far from put-together. Not only does is it lack air conditioning, but it lacks, well, everything.

We moved into our luxurious, no heater, no AC one-story home at the end of January 2019. The grand idea was that we’d remodel this house in every way – new floors, new furniture, appliances, fresh paint, you name it.

However, we aren’t quite there yet. Not close at all. 

I was sitting in my “temporary” room, watching a movie starring Michael Cera, thinking how funny he looked in his yellow shorts, when she stepped in my room.

It was Maylee.

Maylee is my niece, a 10-year-old with little grasp for reality and an imagination the size of the universe. With a yappy little voice that demands to be heard, she’s ridiculously stubborn, but she’s gone through a lot. More than most people go through in a lifetime. 

I didn’t see it then, but that day in May was about to change my life in a major way. Here I was, watching “Juno,” a movie that follows a 16-year-old girl named Juno. She’s a spunky, smart-alecky teenager who ends up pregnant.

Oddly enough, the mother of the 10-year-old kid who’s just set foot in my room had Maylee at that very tender age.

Now, Juno had it different. I don’t know Maylee’s mom, but I know enough to gather that she had little guidance. She lacked the sense of stability and family love that Juno had; the love that made her strong enough to go through with her pregnancy at such a young age.

The reality is, not everyone is a Juno. Maylee’s mom certainly wasn’t. The only thing they had in common is the fact that Juno never knew her kid and Maylee’s mom never really knew hers either.

Maylee’s life, to say the least, was far from stable. I’d never known her well enough to understand the ins and outs of her life, but I knew enough to be concerned. From the moment she was born to the exact moment she set foot in my room, I constantly heard talk from my dad about wanting to adopt her. 

To tell you the truth, I was always in favor of this idea; she’s a kid, not a sack of potatoes. She didn’t deserve to be tossed around because those around her found her inconvenient, or because they couldn’t seem to get their act together. She deserved a home.

A real one.

In reality, I didn’t really know what I was getting into. The mere idea of having a new sister was exciting, but she had to adapt to a brand new life.

The unstable life she’d known, this cramped lifestyle of bouncing from place to place constantly and never settling down was coming to an end. Maylee’s dad knew he had to do better regarding the life of his little girl. It just couldn’t go on this way. So he did what he had to do – handed her over and brought her home. To a real home. To us.

From that day in May, I began to refer to her as my new sister. I brushed her hair, helped her pick what outfit to wear, challenge her to see who could swing the highest. Sit next to her over our breakfast pancakes and ask her to pass me the syrup. 

It was mid-July, the house growing unbearably hot with each passing day. We knew we were shaping a little girl’s life for the better, but it was difficult. It wasn’t just the heat that made us feel like we were suffocating, but the new and abrupt responsibility of caring for someone new.

Our life was messy. We slept in the living room of our four-bedroom house because of the repairs which kept getting postponed. I could see that this was a major shift not exclusively in Maylee’s life, but in all of ours. I saw how exhausted my dad was, unwilling to miss out on any opportunity he could to pick up some extra cash. I saw the frustration on his face when I needed to be driven to my summer class in the morning because he was wasting time on me when he could be working to provide further. 

I saw it in my mom’s eyes, too. The language barrier that kept her from communicating with the little girl in front of her was frustrating. When summer began, she had two kids. Without warning, she was now expected to raise a third.

The most distressing thing of all, though, was Maylee, who was always waiting for her real dad to come home. 

Even with the never-ending stickiness which consumes my house in the summer heat, I am comforted by one thing; she is happy here. She is truly happy.

I see it when she runs around the house with that child-like energy I think we all miss from our own days as kids. I see the curiosity in her eyes, her determination to “take over the world,” even though she has no idea what that actually means. Her attitude of “I can do anything, be anything” because she’s 10. Despite what she’s been through, there are no limits when you are a kid.

Although I didn’t realize it right away, in this process of saving her, she saved me. I always wanted a big sister of my own, someone to guide me, to be my best friend. But now I can be that. I can help her, be there, and hold her hand when being a kid gets hard.

I think this is how it’s supposed to be.

So no, when Maylee’s mom had her she didn’t have this carefully crafted plan regarding her newborn daughter’s future. She didn’t even stick around to see how she’d grow up.

But I can confidently say Maylee and Juno do have one thing in common: a loving family.

A home.