The Lost Child

Untitled by Ned Wakkuna of Dine' College
Untitled by Ned Wakkuna of Dine’ College

It was a cold and snow-storming night as Samantha sat next to a warm wood-burning fireplace with a huge cup of hot chocolate topped with tons of marshmallows. She reflected on how hard her life had been growing up with a mother struggling with alcoholism and an absentee father. She felt like most of her life she had been stuck on a roller coaster that had too many twists, turns, and ups and downs. Samantha’s life was emotional and unpredictable with day-to-day neglect and abuse. She was never able to truly express herself or develop a healthy personality consisting of her own characteristics. Samantha was a slender tall girl with jet black frizzy hair, brown eyes, dark skin, and a thin face. She doesn’t talk much and has a lack of security, trust, and confidence.

Samantha remembered the story about the day she was born. It was a warm August night when Karen, her mother, got so inebriated she forgot she had Samantha with her and left her on the pool table at the tavern. A stranger had to take Samantha home and this was the beginning of a life set for hardship and suffering. The thought of spending her first day of life in a bar, left behind on a pool table with people around her partying, neglecting her presence as if this were normal, was maddening. Hearing the story from others as she grew up, including the part about the woman who had no idea who Samantha needed to take her home that night due to a neglectful mother, was hard to wrap her head around. It was Samantha’s first day on earth and it was already against her.

Around the age of eight, Samantha was picked up by an old grey-haired man who introduced himself as Mr. Beck, a social worker for children. He was tall and wore a light blue suit. Mr. Beck told Samantha that Karen had to go away for a while and that he would be taking her to a place and that she could stay until her mother was able to return home. He assured Samantha that she would be okay. When Mr. Beck and Samantha pulled up to the dark, spooky looking three-bedroom home in a wooded area, her heartbeat started to increase. She was terrified of where her life was going. As they pulled up to the house, two teenage boys and a girl that appeared to be around the same age as Samantha ran outside to see who arrived. Mr. Beck asked her to step out of the car. She felt uncomfortable and frightened. After being introduced to the family and seeing how beautiful and large the house in the woods was, her mind and emotions started to ease, and she thought maybe she would be safe here after all.

Unfortunately, it was not long before Samantha learned that the foster home was just as bad, or maybe even worse, than her home with her mother Karen. From this first day being dropped off at this spooky wooded home, until around the age of 13, Samantha was placed in at least 25 different foster homes. Her life was never filled with feelings of safety and security and she thought this was just the way her life would always be.

By the age of 13, Samantha started binge drinking and smoking marijuana, which helped her to forget the loneliness, anger, and pain. At this age, Samantha started to believe she was becoming like her mother and was leading a life of pretending or acting that she did not care about anything. Samantha started stealing to survive and was living anywhere she could find shelter at the end of each night. She rarely slept in the same place for more than one night. At the age of 15, Samantha quit going to school. She did not see the point and believed she was an unintelligent teenager who couldn’t spell. She would get teased when she was called on by the teachers and wanted to avoid more negativity and hate in her life. For the next few years she lived following this path of destruction. At age 16, she ended up pregnant and had no idea what she was going to do, how she was going to support a child, and where they would go.

Samantha decided she must return to school for her GED so she could try to provide a better life for her child. She struggled with the coursework and she continued to believe that she was incapable of education. Samantha was able to work through her doubts and get her GED, but after obtaining the certificate she chose to live on welfare. She didn’t think she was ever going to be smart enough to get a job and was terrified of what others would think of her.

Samantha will never forget the day she visited a friend who was going to Black Crow College in a little town about 15 minutes away. When she met her friend on the college campus, there stood yet another grey-haired man. This man was tall and had a thin beard. He was listening to her friend and another girl talk. He looked down and asked Samantha, “Just what do you plan on doing with your life, girl? You have a child and you want to live your life like you are?”

It was immediately apparent to Samantha that her friend had shared some of her story with the man. Samantha was intrigued by the man but wondered who he was and why he cared so much about how she, a young woman he had never met before, was living her life. No one else ever had. Samantha shrugged his comment off, laughed, and expressed that her life was just fine the way it was. He challenged Samantha’s contentment with her current life situation, talking to her for at least 10 more minutes, trying to convince her she should attend college and do more with her life. On the inside, Samantha was screaming at herself that she could not read well, could not spell, and that math was hard. There was no way she could go to college. Samantha believed she was foolish and would never be smart enough to attend college. She expressed this to the man, who she later found was the founder of Black Crow College.

Mr. Crow would not accept that Samantha was incapable of attending college. He convinced Samantha to at least try. Samantha started her first semester in the fall after several months of studying and receiving help from many professors at the college. Samantha’s first class was in math and writing, which she worked hard at every single day, even spending hours of her free time on her learning. The teachers at the college saw potential in Samantha that she never saw in herself. Within her first three weeks of attending Black Crow College, they called her in the office for a meeting. Samantha was constantly worried and thinking she was not doing well enough. She thought this meeting was going to confirm those fears. To her surprise, Mr. Crow told her how proud of her he was and how much he had seen her develop in such a short time. Mr. Crow then asked her if she would like to work for him recruiting other young adults to come to the college. Samantha was shocked and overwhelmed with joy. Samantha accepted the job and by the end of her first semester had the highest grade possible in each of her classes, a new successful job, and a newly purchased nice house with a warm fireplace where she drank her hot chocolate. She was thrilled to see her life finally taking a turn and everything falling into place.

Darla Asenbrener is a student at College of Menominee Nation.

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