Growing up I was a bit of a ‘latch key’ kid. My mom (who was amazing) was the primary breadwinner and my dad worked a lot on clean energy initiatives but I never felt alone because I had Renee-my neighborhood mom.
Neighborhood moms are unsung heros of a working class neighborhood. They often have the same or less in terms of income yet they give their most important resource: their time.
Renee was a hero: a hero to a group of kids who needed someone to simply be there. Renee wasn’t perfect, she smoked and cursed and I’m sure her food wasn’t organic but she cooked for us, opened up her small basement apartment to us and was there if anyone needed a bandaid or an emergency ice cream sandwich.
There’s a lot of pressure to try to be perfect but there is a saying ‘done is better then perfect’ and Renee wasn’t always perfect but she was always there. Trying. And that means more then I could ever say.
When I first met Renee she was a young single mother to her son Billy. I had no comprehension of how hard that must of been for her. I only knew if I had a problem what door I could knock on. If I missed the bus, she would be the first person I told knowing she would drive me. She might be complaining the whole time but she would always take me. She was a constant figure in the neighborhood; giving out freeze pops, helping with homework, taking our neighborhood gang of misfits to beach and screaming at us if we went in too deep. She was and is the best example of “It takes a village”. She was the heart of our village. She was our angel. Our loud mouthed, Kool smoking, “this math is too hard for a fucking fifth grader” angel.
But eventually our neighborhood disbanded. People moved away. Renee got married. Inherited two step children.
Then it happened. Seven years ago Renee’s only biological son, Billy, was diagnosed with brain cancer. For seven years Renee fought for him and with him. She fought with a love that was both terrifying and awe inspiring. He died at 29. A week before Christmas.
I don’t know how to express how sad I am for her. I look at my son and can’t begin to imagine her pain. I just don’t want her to ever feel alone. They say a happy childhood lasts forever and to a group of kids in a working class neighborhood, she gave us that happy childhood.
Renee will never get the recognition she deserves and neither will the other neighborhood moms of the world but please know that those little lives you touched will be forever grateful. Please keep giving, keep helping and remember: you don’t have to be perfect, you just have to be there. It means more then you’ll ever know.