My first contact mom had a very healthy, robust baby, who was also probably the angriest baby I’ve ever met. His mom went to school to get her CNA certification, and so the Corps ended up babysitting him at odd times to fill in for other sitters while she was at school. Some good things to know about babysitting this boy: he loved to be held in a baby-carrier, he hated tummy time more than anything else in the world, and he would always eat more if given the option. He dressed as an elephant for Halloween.
The first time I cried at Maggie’s Place was when one of my contact moms yelled at me during her last week or so in the house. She was very stressed about her rapid move out situation and all the transitions happening at once between her new job and her new home and everything else, and took it out on me with some hurtful comments that she later regretted. At the time it felt incredibly difficult, but looking back I really barely remember it. This was the beginning of me being forged in Love, Hospitality, Community, and Excellence; of growing in leadership and humility; of my heart breaking a little bit so that it could heal more full of love than before.
Christmas 2013 – the moms opened their gifts in under 10 minutes. Christmas 2014 – we wised up and handed them out one at a time, and they still opened them in less than an hour. My contact mom one year told me, “Thank you for giving us Christmas,” and it hit me then that none of them ever expect much on Christmas. They are all used to giving to their kids and not keeping much for themselves. So they are all blown away by the generosity of a Maggie’s Place Christmas that focuses not only on the babies, but on the moms too. There are usually tears involved.
There was the time Lily and I were picking up a mom from an apartment complex to move her into the home, and we ended up having to call 9-1-1 because a truck caught on fire in the parking lot.
The various stages of moving out, and the various stages of heartbreak or joy that they entail: the times that moms relapsed or found themselves suddenly in dangerous situations and had to move out quickly; the few times that moms ran away because they had never felt the kind of unconditional love that is offered at MP and it scared the bejeezus out of them; the moms who moved out with deep wounds still unhealed; the moms who moved out too soon and immediately regretted it; the moms who miscarried; the moms who struggled hard; the moms who stayed until their babies were six months old; the moms who left with joy in their hearts, who call just to chat and catch up, who bring their babies by for visits.
I don’t think I will ever forget mom Alice, who often talked about her “officers” and how one day she wanted to be a correctional officer herself. She would call me the Sheriff. She would walk moms, Corps, and volunteers out to their cars for protection since she considered herself the bodyguard of the house. Alice moved out before her baby was born so I usually think of her with her basketball pregnant belly.
Once I took a mom to CASS for one of their services and she started crying immediately upon entering campus so I held her hand and told her I wouldn’t leave her there alone and that we would go home soon. She thanked me three times later for not leaving her there.
There were many times going to court with moms to support them. There was one instance when a mom found out a warrant had been issued for her arrest, and she bravely turned herself in to the courthouse fully expecting jail time. In the end she just had to pay a fine and was able to take care of everything that same day!
There was the time that we moved all seven moms and four Corps members from our home to another home while some work was done on the kitchen, and we stayed there for two weeks. The Corps and staff were worried that it would be a huge hassle, and the moms would hate it and maybe even want to move out. In the end, the moms called it their “summer home” and felt like they were on vacation. When we moved back to our house, we lived with a kitchen under construction for three months and I can’t think of a single time anyone complained about it.
In my second year, there was a mom who moved out after only having lived at the house for about three weeks. She told her contact person on the street curb as she was leaving that she was grateful to have been able to get “just a little taste of heaven” at Maggie’s Place.
Also in my second year, there were two moms who moved out into their own apartments when their babies were six months old and who still keep in touch with me and with Maggie’s Place.
Once I held a newborn baby while his mother got some sleep, the same mother who had only known me for a week, and who moved out that same week. I have never seen them again. Then there are other alumni babies that I’ve watched grow into alumni toddlers.
It could happen every single day, but it was always a joy when moms would tell me that they love me.
There were the countless community nights, intakes with new moms, gratitude circles, affirmations, Monday meetings, personal updates, leadership meetings, contact meetings, volunteer orientations, and Maggie’s Place parties. I learned to be a confident public speaker.
There were all the times that Mass was celebrated in the chapel in our home and the many priests we befriended from local parishes. I think I will always remember the time a priest heard a mom’s confession in the home. That same priest absolutely loved holding the babies whenever he visited. Some other faith-filled moments: taking moms to Mass on Sundays and explaining the Eucharist to the, seeing the strength community prayer brought to our home and the wider community, the time that I got a call after the MP9K in 2014 when one of the moms from another home had had a massive stroke and was in brain surgery with a less than 10% chance of survival, and we set up perpetual adoration in our chapel until we heard that she was out of surgery hours later and was going to make it. I think everything in all of the homes stopped for those hours, except prayer.
Then there was the heartbreak when I found out that an alumni contact mom of mine had turned to stripping to make ends meet, followed by hearing from another alumni contact mom who got a job as a medical assistant (after she had earned her MA certificate while living in the home). There was the time that one of our moms was hired at Maggie’s Thrift after graduating the job training program.
And all the Corps retreats that mainly consisted of naps and food.
One time my contact mom Candice randomly dropped by the house with baby Maci a year after she moved out to tell me that she was working at a law firm, had her own place and was off welfare, and was doing all this on her own. Then she thanked me and told me that she couldn’t have done any of it without the help of Maggie’s Place, and I told her she was an amazing woman and mother.
There was the mom who gave birth to her daughter at 23 weeks gestation and basically lived in the NICU for the next several months, until her baby finally weighed 8 pounds and was able to go home that summer. Her baby was born weighing less than a pound.
Every time a new baby was born it was a cause for joy and welcome home signs, no matter the circumstances. Probably my favorite job was holding the babies.
All the times I drove the 15P full of Christmas gifts across the Valley from the pick up location to The Christmas House.
Hosting so many Candlelights for exiting Corps and moms.
Serving at MP during all the 15 year anniversary festivities and seeing all the lives that Maggie’s Place has touched in 15 years of love and service.
The time that both of the house vacuums and the paper shredder broke in the same week so I put them on the needs list. That same day we received a donation of two brand new vacuums and a working paper shredder.
There were the many times that volunteers offered their homes to the Corps to take a break during times of stress or even just offered their prayers for us.
And the biggest blessing: living in a community where love rocks, where it doesn’t matter what your past is, what matters is where you are going, and where conflict happens and love is messy but through it all we learn to look out for each other and find joy even in brokenness.
By Lucy Miller, a MissionCorps member