COUNTRY OF PROVENANCE
Story of Melany - Milan
One of the community educators where I volunteer wrote to me a few days ago asking if I was available to accompany some mom to the theater on Saturday evening. The community follows mothers and children who are in conditions of “social frailty“, so they are called those situations in which there is a woman with one or more children who cannot take care of herself or them and the court issues a decree for which they are obliged to go to the community.
Arriving at the community house, Melany got into the car with me. She has a sweet face, is of Ecuadorian origin. Her little girl is called Tiffany and she is three years old. The first time I saw them I thought “I will never remember who Melany is and who Tiffany is, the names sound alike to me”.
I had tried to exchange a few words with Melany in the past. She had always answered me half-mouthed, to then look down at the cell phone and put on the earphones.
We put Tiffany – the daughter – sitting behind and fasten her belt. She is beautiful: she has a white dress with a pastel-colored floral skirt, an olive skin, very black hair that is long to the shoulders held by a silver headband and white sandals. She always smiles, she is polite, composed, but she also has her temper.
Melany sits next to me. “I hope there is a mirror because I have to put make-up,” she says, moving the sun visor. I think it’s inconvenient to put makeup in the car, but I don’t tell her anything.
I set it up and off we go, there is a half-hour journey between the house and the theater. I apologize for the slightly dirty car … there is a CD box set right next to Melany’s feet.
– Can I see what CD you have?
– Yes sure. They are old though.
– Pink Floyd … Bob Marley … Nirvana! I don’t know many people who like rock music! Shall we put it on?
– Okay, maybe it’s a little scratched, it won’t sound very good.
On the way
Melany tells me about when she was little, she was 9 years old and her father took her to a rock music festival near Bergamo. “Then came those guys with the big motorbikes, the Harley Davidsons,” and she took a photo with them. All her friends made fun of her when she published the photos on Facebook: only she likes this music, she took the passion from her father.
– It’s cool that you like rock – she tells me.
So, I told her about the Foo Fighters concert I just attended in Florence and we continued discussing about music until we get to the theater with the album Smell like teen spirit in the background. Tiffany eats an apple in the back seat.
At the theatre
The show is for children and made by children, a sort of parish plays titled “Horror show”. Melany and Tiffany are sitting in the back row, on the opposite side of mine.
After the show, mothers are impatient to go. There is Amal who is in full Ramadan and is dying of tiredness and hunger. Melany goes out to smoke a cigarette. We get in the car.
– You know, Tiffany’s father is in Spain, in Oviedo. I was there too when I was pregnant. I like Spain. And you?
Melany is 19 years old. She got pregnant who was 15.
– I still didn’t know that I was pregnant but when I looked around there were only women with a big belly or people talking about pregnant friends or relatives. It seemed like a curse. Then I took the test and it was all true. I wanted to disappear. I already didn’t feel like going to school. Then I quit. It’s not that I couldn’t, it’s that my parents split up, they started arguing that I was 9. But not to fight normally, it was always very violent. When I went to school I cried. I remember it. Then there were my brothers … well, I felt like I had to be another mom for them. Mine was almost never there. For a few years my father has really disappeared.
Melany is like a river. She wants to tell me her whole life in few minutes. The separation of her parents full of anger and sadness. A separation that lasted for years, not months. Then she moved from a house to another until she ended up in a community with her mother and siblings after being evicted. A life of house moving and social workers.
- My mother and I are not exactly compatible. We will never be able to live together.
Pregnant at 15. Her boyfriend also came from a difficult family situation, he was 17. He too Ecuadorian. Then a family friend invited them to go to Spain and she followed them, she could not stay at home with her mother any longer.
- I wanted to be with him, but I was alone, I didn’t have anyone there. Then he did things to me and I had to leave.
Melany is almost ashamed. “He did things to me.” Back in Italy, the mother did not accept the fact that she had left her boyfriend.
– It is true that I got pregnant, but why do you think I have not returned to school in all these years? She didn’t want, she didn’t want me to do anything. I spent my days staring at the walls. And also, with my daughter: if I said no, she said yes and of course what do children do? They go to those who always say yes.
Melany was beaten, which is why she left Spain. That’s why she ran away from her daughter’s father. She wanted to go back to Italy to get better, but it got worse and worse.
– At a certain point I couldn’t take it anymore. I brought Tiffany with me and we didn’t go back to sleep at home. I went to my best friend: she has always been there, always. She is the only person I can trust. Her mom also helped me, made breakfast for Tiffany, we could sleep peacefully …
Then her mother denounced her because both she and Tiffany were minors and had not returned home and the social workers arrived, finally the judge: “you go to a community“, so they said.
– The decree took a long time to arrive. I said to social workers “if you said that I have to go to the community, let me go immediately!”. I was too sick of being with my mother.
Melany has been in the community since January, we are now in June.
– When I got there, I couldn’t even hug my daughter – she looks at Tiffany half asleep in the back seat.
– The director of the community and the educators said to me: “you are inside a shell, Melany”. I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t do anything.
Then the talks mediated by social workers began: first her, Tiffany and her mother, then only her and her mother.
– I couldn’t even look at my mother’s face in the beginning.
Keep talking Melany, I drive but I try to look her in the eyes every now and then.
– Then the time came to apologize. I was able to apologize. I also know that I was not talking, that it is not easy to understand me. It is so difficult to forgive.
Of course, it is always better to stay in a house than in a community, but the community has helped me. Now I embrace my daughter, we are as you see us, very attached.
I think Tiffany will become someone: you know, even when she is with other children everyone listens to her, she has character.
If I finish the hotel school, I want to be a hostess, I want to see the world! When I was little I dreamed of driving planes.
Arriving home, we say goodbye with a quick hug. Thanks, Melany, for letting me know your story. Thanks, Milan, for letting us meet.
Today Melany lives with her daughter in an apartment for themselves.