On the opening evening of the 2017 AIHEC Student Conference in Rapid City, students from an array of TCUs entertained conference goers with the spoken word at the annual poetry slam. Watch the video →
My “Cool” Mom
I had a cool mom growing up. I don’t mean cool like she let me have ice cream for breakfast or let me have slumber parties on school nights. For me, cool is more of a cover-up which I don’t have to explain to others. They normally don’t ask me to, they just laugh it off because they only know the “new” Debra Coffman.
“Cool” to me is…
C- Catastrophic. My childhood was a mess and it went downhill faster than I could handle when I finally realized my mom was addicted to crack cocaine. My mom, cousin, grandma, and I were homeless on and off, living in hotels and packing our most important belongings in totes and duffle bags. It’s difficult to understand at such a young age what is and what isn’t normal when you have already had so much chaos in your life. Nine years later, I’m figuring out I have small habits and rituals that have come from being homeless for so long. For example, I live a much-cluttered lifestyle, as my grandma calls it. I keep extra clothes and toiletries in my car. I also find myself always living out of boxes and totes even though I’ve lived in the same place for four years now.
O- Overprotective. This is sort of ironic. My mom has always been very protective since I was her only child. But what is interesting to me is that she wasn’t overprotective the night she decided it was okay to leave her 14-year-old daughter in a hotel room alone with her new “boyfriend” while she “went and got coffee.” Nine years later I still don’t understand why she did that, what made her think that was okay… But I guess I’m slowly realizing that her state of mind wasn’t very clear in those days; her knowledge of right and wrong could have been obscured by her addiction.
O- Overdramatic. When I was in eighth grade, my mom and I were walking down the street in the dead of night and she asked me where I wanted to be, and the only answer I had was with her. Regardless of all she had put me through up to this point, I just wanted to be with her. She knew she wasn’t capable of taking care of me anymore, so she took me to a woman’s house who she met during one of many unsuccessful trips to drug rehabilitation centers. Living there, I had stability, I had people around me who treated me like family—no questions asked. Then one day while doing chores I found my mom’s crack pipe under the sink in the bathroom. My caretaker let my mom come see me as often as she liked and she would often clean up while she was there. But when I found that glass cylinder I didn’t know what to do, so I called the woman who took me into her loving home and asked her. “Crush it and flush it” she told me, so I did. Later that day my mom came back for what she had lost and when I told her that I had found it and flushed it down the toilet, it felt like she wanted to kill me… I had so much hope that seeing the hurt on my face would bring my mother to reality, show her that she had a daughter who loved her and just wanted her healthy and in her life. Instead, all she did was yell and all I could do was cry. She told me that everything was my fault, that I was the reason she had to get high, and I was the reason she had to do what she had to do for money. Again, nine years later I don’t understand…
L- Loving. After being homeless, leaving me with strange men, putting me in the care of someone who was almost a stranger, telling me her drug addiction was my fault, and so many more things, I have become a stronger person because I’ve gotten through them all and have stayed a good person. I know my mom loves me, she always has. No matter what, nothing has ever made me question that. Through all the bad times she has made it a priority to make sure I was safe and warm. What her definition of safe was could have been questionable at times.
I could probably write an entire novel based on my childhood, but it’s hard to think about, even nine years later. There are still things that I have to come to terms with and accept. I like to think that my mom is 100% clean and sober now, but I know temptation is out there. Now that I am an adult and can take care of myself, I try to keep out of her personal life when it comes to drugs and our past. When I do look back on these things I just think to myself, “Wow. You’re an amazing person, Christina. You haven’t let these things define you or what your future holds.” It is the adversity that I have faced that is keeping me driven. I have been fortunate enough to attend Nebraska Indian Community College and my hard work has led to me obtaining my associate’s degree in early childhood education. I have maintained a very high GPA during my time here and have been accepted to three very good schools.
Christina Coffman was born and raised in Everett, Washington. She moved to the Santee Sioux reservation the summer before her senior year in high school. Dealing with many adversities in life, Coffman graduated from high school in 2011 and eventually enrolled at Nebraska Indian Community College where she is now in her second year.