I’ll never forget the night that changed my life. I was 13 years old and asleep in bed when I heard a loud noise. I came out of my bedroom, and my mother was standing in the front door. There were drunk men on the porch. I heard them say, “We’ve come to get what’s ours.”
My mother, Georgia, said, “What are you talking about?” She was fumbling to tie her bathrobe, and I could hear her voice shake. They said, “We’ve come to get our furniture. We won it in a game of poker.”
I’ll never forget what she said next: “Where’s Jim?”
They said, “He’s not here.”Imagine what she must have been thinking: My husband just gave you our address and let you come.
I couldn’t see how many men were out there, but they sounded like big old monsters. Our family had already endured poverty and uncertainty because of my father’s drinking and gambling. I was picturing 50 men bursting through the door and coming into my room to carry out my bed. But then my mother said, “Well, you’re not coming into this house.” Her voice was strong, and suddenly she grew to ten feet tall and 500 pounds in my eyes.
“You’re not coming in,” she said again. “Have your wives call me in the morning, and then we’ll discuss what you think is yours.” I watched as she closed the door and turned the lock. Then she looked at me, smiled, and said, “You can go to bed now.”
I must have stood there for … an hour? Two hours? Leaning against the wall, staring at that front door, replaying that scene over and over. I made two life decisions that night. One, I would never marry a man who drank or gambled. And two, I would be a powerful woman who protects her home and family. My mother stood in the door against all those men who wanted to take the little bit she had. If my mother could grow to ten feet tall and 500 pounds, then I could too.
Right then, I vowed that no one would ever threaten my family, scare my family, or cross the threshold of my home without an invitation. My children would never live in fear of their father’s alcoholic drinking. And I, as a child, would become an island in a sea of chaos.
On that pivotal night, I decided who I wanted to be.