|Amanda @ 16 years old|
Amanda Kate: Amanda is also known as Amanda Kate, Katie-Cat, Diva, Princess, Mandy, Mander (to John) and big sister to many. Amanda came knocking on my door in 2000 when she was just a little bitty thing at the end of Kindergarten. She had no front teeth, and dirty blond hair cut like a mushroom around her face. She and her first cousin knocked on my door with their skinned knees, dirty fingernails and mismatched clothes. Within days they were eating at my dinner table, playing with Emily's girls, and by Easter of the next year, Amanda was in regular attendance at all family gatherings. The first time my grandmother, Bunna, laid eyes on her, she said "She is so beautiful. Does she ever smile?" Little Miss Amanda was too mature for her age, having watched her mom go through a rough battle with drug addiction. Family services had placed her with her loving and devoted Grandmother who turned out to be my neighbor two houses down. Amanda's grandma was kind enough to share her little angel with me. I was just twenty two at the time, but God knew I needed that kid. She became my sidekick and little buddy, attending church with me and every family function, always happy for my company, and always thankful for love and attention. Sometime between the ages of eight and nine on a trip to Florida, my aunt Pam asked me "when did she start calling you mom?" I could not recall, it just happened over time, as the trust and love between us developed. In 2002, I married a man who had struggled on and off with his own drug addiction. Against my better judgment, I married someone who would continue to battle cocaine and alcohol. Amanda was there through all of it- four years, eleven months and twenty-one days, a little girl who KNEW drug addiction and knew what it could do to a relationship. Many times over she saved my life. Many days when I wanted to end my own life, I would think of her and that was one of the main reasons I kept going. I would not and could not hurt or abandon her- I couldn't. She was a ray of sunshine in my life and always will be. We have cried together in heartache and laughed together in good times. Today she is seventeen years old- and I can't believe it. I have photos and memories of this little angel- the "Muffins with Mom" breakfasts at her elementary school, taking her to get her learner's permit, letting her drive my car in church parking lots, playing countless pranks on our church friends, flying to Chicago for my cousin's wedding. Amanda, you have brought me much joy and my life will forever be richer because of you. And I am so glad you found your smile. It's beautiful!