When I meet Katharine I could tell she was an impossible person to approach. She was like a lion in a cage, angry, furious, impatient, menacing, but I tolerated her mood and slowly but firmly I heard all the complaints she had. Complaints about how difficult the world is for her and how others cannot understand her way. As her new “friend” she accepted me visiting her each week so very carefully I used to be there just for her. She also was a mother of four children, three of them working on the streets, out of school. The other side of me was looking superficially at the whole picture of this family with this single mother and it made me feel uncomfortable because I thought she was responsible for her children being on the streets, however my focus was her.
She was very interesting, always behaving with tantrums. Then I became curious to know what is behind this woman who was like a stone about her own memories of her life. After some months she got more confidence and used to share with me a bit more of her experience. “The amount of pain on my life had turned my heart from bright to darkness,” she used to say while she did small blacks balls of clay and put it on one drawing of a heart.
She and her family were immigrants from the border from Colombia due to the “guerrillas” and “paramilitaries” so they ran away to a big city in Ecuador. Her mother died when she was around 2 years old then she idealized her memory and the rest she remembered was violence and work since she was a small child. She never went to the school and there was nobody relevant for her. The worst that she remembered was that nobody was there to protect her from violence and hard punishments. Then when she grew up she got pregnant very early and since then she did not stop having babies, but they died too when they were babies or miscarriages. She lost some siblings too and she had to bury them.
The side of me which was criticizing her was ashamed then, and my understanding of the situation of her children was a clear picture of herself.
That small girl who soon became an “adult” had to survive using the way that she had learned “like a lion” in a world of humans.
Maybe she was not the best example of being a mother but she was a survivor helping her children to have resilience.