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Hope Looks Like: A Seat at the Table - Isabella’s Story

Updated: Nov 21, 2023

Isabella stared at the calendar on her bedroom wall. Today was Tuesday, November 21st. It was two more days until she would see her son again for the first time in three years. If she closed her eyes and thought hard enough, could still feel his tiny hands wrapped around her leg as he clung to her for balance soon after he took his first steps. 

She was so excited to squeeze him. To pull him close and smell the mixture of baby shampoo, puffed cereal and sweat. But then she remembered. 

“He’s four years old now,” she thought. “He’s a little man now. No more baby smells.” 

She knew this already, but she hadn’t really thought about it until now. She had a video call with her son and her grandmother every now and then so that she could still see his face and be a part of his life, even though she was away. She had seen him grow taller, his curly locks longer and his voice grow older – but a phone call was a poor substitute for the real thing. She wanted to hold him. To sing him to sleep. To measure how tall he was now compared to her. To watch him play and run. It was the only thing that helped her make it through the program. 

She felt sad to think about all of the “in-between moments” she had missed. Normally, Isabella would have allowed these thoughts and feelings to consume her. But she had grown so much over the past three years, just like her sweet boy. She recognized the thoughts as they came to her mind and she combated them with praise. 

“Thank God I’m still alive to see him turn four years old,” she thought. “Thank the Lord he is safe. Thank the Lord I am safe. Thank the Lord for all of the in-between moments I’m about to be a part of.”

She turned her attention from the calendar to her suitcase on the bed and began to pack her belongings. The past two years at Her Song had been the longest years of her life. She thought about all of the tears and heartache she had been through to get to where she was at now. After she was released from jail and her record expunged, it would have been so easy to go back home to her son. She wanted to be with him more than anything. But she knew if she went back to him first, it wouldn’t be for long. She had to rebuild her own life so that she could help her son build his. 

Isabella touched the door frame of the safe house as she brought her luggage out to her car. It was the door she had fought with so many times since she’d arrived at Her Song. The door she once felt was keeping her from her son was now the door that wished her goodbye like an old friend. She turned and walked to the car, lifting her suitcase into the trunk. She was leaving with much more than she came with, yet somehow her bag felt lighter than it had when she arrived. She hopped in the car and started on her long trip home. 

As Isabella pulled up to her grandmother’s house and peered inside the windows, she was greeted by a warm glow, a tiny nose and two little hands pressed up against the glass. Her heart leapt out of her chest. She forgot all about her suitcase and flew to the front door to see her son. As she pulled him into her arms, she was relieved to find that he still smelled of baby shampoo and sweat. 

She looked up as she smelled another familiar, comforting scent. Isabella saw her grandmother standing in the doorway of the kitchen and several steaming pots on the stove behind her. She knew what was cooking before she even saw it. Grandma Lou’s famous mashed potatoes, green beans and turkey roasting in the oven. 

To the right of the kitchen, she saw the table was set for three and she smiled. She had made it back to the table. Back to her son. 

“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” she thought. “And it was all worth it.”

*This story is inspired by true events.

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