She was my neighbor before she was my chemistry teacher. I babysat her kids a couple times a month, and loving them was enough for her to accept me into their perfect little family. She gave me a place of refuge in her classroom every morning and every afternoon, every chem class junior year, and every free fifth period senior year, where I could sit and be content for awhile. She gave me a place of refuge in her own home, which quickly became my "second home," a place I could go when the walls of my own seemed to be closing in on me. She drove me to and from school so I didn't have to endure the horrors of riding a school bus. That, and I know the little conversations we'd have meant the world to her, too. I was the daughter she never had. She gave me a voice, and positions of leadership in school so I could live up to my true potential, which she recognized far before I did. She broke down the walls I built up around myself saw through a broken shell to the unscathed center of my truest identity, and loved me for me. She became my role model, and I began to base my life off of her immaculate kindness and love. She changed everything for me. They all changed everything for me.
Friday afternoon I handed her my yearbook. She scrawled quick note and signed it, "Love, Mom C." We looked at each other with teary eyes, knowing that the coming year would be difficult. She hugged me for longer than she ever had and listed all the ways we'd stay in touch, reminding me that I "really had no way to escape" because I was "a part of the family." She told me how much they loved me and I told them the same, holding on to the moment for as long as I could.
I love them from the bottom of my heart, my "second family" who loved me by choice. When I leave for college in September, I know I don't have to lose touch with them, because families stay in touch forever.
When I got home that day after school, I changed her name in my phone to "Mom C."