La Familia Baez: Jessica

November 16, 2011

I asked her how her week was. The kids here act like they hate it when I do that, because it is so foreign to them. People generally don’t care about how their week was, what they did that day, what their plans are for the weekend…

In any case, she answered with a thumbs-ehh indicating an okay week but then quickly motioned downwards and raspberried. “What happened? Why was it bad?” I ventured. She swallowed hard and stared stone-faced at the floor for a few seconds.

“Can we talk outside?”

We sat down on an uncomfortable metal pole and it was silent for a while. A breeze swiped at my bangs, puffy clouds scooted out of sight, and the blue in the sky gave way to darker shades as the sun prepared to set.

“I’ve been having these dreams…” She bit her lip to stop the onset quivering, and shook with effort trying to hold back her tears. “I don’t want to cry,” she whispered.

“It’s okay. Sometimes we need to.” I feebly tried to reassure her.

“I’ve been having these dreams, where I’m at the airport and everyone around me keeps leaving. I wake up crying, because it’s not just a dream. It feels like this has been the one constant in my life. That people I get close to, that I come to see as family always pick up and go just when I start to feel really comfortable with them. It is hard for me to get close to people now. I tell myself to stay cold, to stay wary, because every time things turn out the same. Everyone always leaves. And now it’s happening again.”

[Author sidenote: her mentor J is going to the States for six month in December, the Br’s are going on home-assignment also for six months in December, and the Ma’s, a USAID couple that has also invested in Jessica, are leaving the country permanently next June.]

“I mean, I am in awe that there have been so many people who have shown love to me, and I am thankful for how they have cared for my life. I always think about what my life would be like if I had never met the Sa’s [one of the CMA missionary families] and never found this church. The other day, R [Mi Esperanza’s Paraguayan pastor] came to my school to ask my teacher how I’m doing. I almost started crying in class because I thought, ‘Wow. I can’t believe someone would care enough for me to care about how I’m doing in school when my own mother has never done that.’

You know, I almost couldn’t go to school this year, because my mom wouldn’t even go sign my enrollment papers. She couldn’t muster up enough effort to sign a few papers. A lady at the comedor I take Valentina to saw me crying on the deadline day, and when she found out why, went to my school, and signed the papers. STRANGERS care more about me than my own mother.”

My eyes welled up with liquid to match what was pouring out of hers. Though I will never fully understand exactly what she has gone through, in that particular moment, I could feel her pain acutely in my stomach. I was angry, so angry that any child should have to live this reality and ever process these thoughts.

She is one of the Baez children that is reaching the age where the implications of her “childhood”–that mothers are not always like Cristina and that what she has done to her children is not right–are proving their real world effects. Jessica is reaping a harvest of neglect, coming to grips with feelings of abandonment, and dealing with the toll of these realities on her emotional and physical being. And it is not good.

“I am so tired. In the mornings, I walk the kids to their comedor. Then walk to my school and drag through class exhausted. I get yelled at all the time for yawning. In the afternoons, I walk to go help Joana with her work so she can get out earlier to pick up the baby. In the evenings, I have to make sure Vanessa, Juan Carlos, and Valentina eat. And those are days when we don’t have church stuff. I didn’t even want to come tonight, because I am so tired. My legs ache every night.

I’m usually so tired, I don’t eat dinner. I even skip lunch sometimes. I’ve lost a lot of weight and people keep telling me how thin I’ve gotten. I just say it’s their imagination, but inside, I know it’s true. I’m just so tired. I’m tired of trying, of putting on a good face, of keeping people at a distance, of wondering what I did wrong to earn this life. For the longest time, I thought our present life was hell and that when you die, the suffering finally ends.

I’m so tired, [Lo]. I just want someone to take care of me, and never have to fear that person will leave.”

I went home that night and prayed with sad, angry tears that God would make His presence tangible and clear to her. Lord, we cry out for your justice to triumph over the Baez family…

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