Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children

James Browning

stories from the book
by James V. Browning

A Mother's Love

Bruce Roberts

“I cannot go,” I defiantly said to my mother. Her insistence that we move to another city for a fresh start at life fell deaf on my teenage ears. I do not know why I said those words to her, but somehow, they escaped. In hindsight, it was the Lord’s will and the first step toward a new beginning.

As a child, I was carefree and void of worry. My mother—a single parent—reared me at a time when prosperity was commonplace. This affluency was matched by my mother’s spiritual guidance and leadership. In essence, our life together was prosperous. However, this began to change during my pre-adolescence. A string of bad relationships and economic hardships forced my mother into a life of dark dependencies. The era was the 1970s and society was full of free love and a general indulgence against anything that was structured or moralistic. Our household became no exception; subsequently, our lives quickly changed from Christianity to dependence on ourselves.

Things only worsened over the next decade. During my freshman year of high school, I began to notice that my home-life was quite different from that of my peers. The stable, two-parent families of my friends enlightened my vision of how things used to be. My mother was now working the late shift as a computer technician. She would work from 3:00 p.m. to midnight. When I got home from school, she was at work; upon her return, I would be sleeping. In essence, I was on my own six days a week, left to fend for myself with little adult supervision.

During this time, I developed some poor, but understandable social behaviors and habits. I became reclusive and very defensive to both peers and adults concerning my living conditions. I yearned for the stability of a two-parent family and the nurturing offered thereof. My only friend, Jeff, fit that perfect model of a Christian-based family life. We began to develop a friendship and I attended church with his family. In short, they became my surrogate family.

The pinnacle of my mother’s troubles was revealed one spring day. After walking home from school to our apartment, I noticed that my mother was crying and sitting in our car. I wondered why she was not at work. After walking over to her, she stated there was no need to go inside—“they” (the creditors) had taken everything from baby pictures to furniture. Months of non-paid rent and debt caused lenders to garnishee all belongings to be sold as a lump sum. We were left with the clothes on our backs and an automobile. At the request of my mother, I called Jeff’s parents and asked to stay with them for a few days until my mother could work something out. They obliged.

A few days turned into a few weeks and then a few months. I was essentially abandoned and quickly wearing out my welcome. The end of the school term was fast approaching and my mother was unable to obtain any financial security. Her visits became less frequent and it was apparent that I would need to fend for myself. I moved out, got a fast-food job, and obtained a car. Throughout the summer, I was somewhat creative and able to juggle my “sleep-overs.” I used work as an outlet and home base, often working until 2:00 a.m. At the end of summer, I did manage to secure a temporary residence with my grandparents who lived in Tulsa.

I commuted to Owasso High School everyday, arriving at 6:30 a.m. for marching band practice which met before the beginning of the school day. I continued my fast-food work schedule, often working to midnight or later. Both school and work became my refuge. However, the relentless time schedule I kept began to display both emotional and physical wear.

My band director noticed a severe lack of sleep and weight loss. He ingeniously enlisted two fellow band members to spy on my living habits. My peers’ report accurately described long hours of work, a commute from a neighboring city, and sometimes sleeping overnight in my vehicle. Before a major band trip, my band director pulled me aside and asked if these allegations were true. I did not have to say anything; the tears said it all. My band director’s concern stemmed from similar circumstances pertaining to his own childhood. He quickly began working on solutions to my dilemma. A generous offer of allowing me to live with him was scorned by the principal of the school who cited a type of favoritism. After careful thought and research, however, he pulled me aside and began describing a place right in Owasso where I could live, focus solely on my studies, and finish my last two years of high school in a more traditional family setting. He handed me an admission form to the Owasso Baptist Children’s Home. Literally, my first thought was: “Oh my God, they’re going to shave my head and make me wear burlap!” That thought was quickly dismissed as I pondered the problem of convincing my mother to sign the release form.

I met with my mother that evening at a local pizza place. I had not seen her much in the past year. To my surprise, she had brought along my older sister who went to live with my father in a neighboring town at an early age. At the conclusion of the meal, I told my mother of my wish to live at the Baptist Children’s Home. Tensions and emotions from my mother and sister ran high as I spoke. My mother’s insistence that we move to another city for a fresh start at life fell deaf on my teenage ears. “I cannot go,” I defiantly said to my mother. I do not know why I said those words to her, but somehow, they escaped. All I knew was that I could not leave the city of Owasso. She reluctantly signed the form on my sincere, but uncouth persistence. In hindsight, it was the Lord’s will and the first step toward a new beginning.

Within a week, I was living at the Leake Cottage at the Owasso Baptist Children’s Home adjusting to my new lifestyle and houseparents. I was fortunate to have a surrogate mother-figure come into my life who accepted my crude social behaviors. In hindsight, I have learned to appreciate her loving concern for my well-being as she gently molded and transformed my ill-gotten behaviors into appropriate venues of success. Just as my housemother was the perfect role model for social behaviors, my housefather was the perfect role model for spiritual guidance and leadership. At last, I had received the model family structure I yearned for throughout my adolescence. The encompassing warmth and love provided by my houseparents and the Baptist Children’s Home was guided through Christian values.

Throughout my stay, I remained active in my high school studies, winning many awards in music, including a full scholarship to the University of Arkansas. The Baptist Children’s Home not only afforded me the opportunity to concentrate on my studies, but helped me establish a lasting relationship with the Lord. Subsequently, the Lord’s plan was unfolding in my life. I attended the university and graduated with a bachelor of science in music education degree. During this time, I also met my wife and we were married by my housefather after courting for three years. Interestingly, I received a phone call two days prior to our wedding. The voice on the other end of the line said, “you don't know me, but I’m your other sister.” I was hesitant, thinking this to be a joke by a former student. The more she talked, however, the more my early life and circumstances fell into place. I realized my mother’s pain and reluctance to let me live at the Baptist Children’s Home. For you see, I discovered that I was not the second child of two siblings: I was seventh of seven children birthed by my mother—all of whom were given up for adoption at an early age. I was the baby of the family and the one my mother vowed to keep and raise. As I terminated the call, the phone immediately rang again. This time, it was my mother. A story of unwed, and at the time, scorned pregnancies led to secret adoptions by family members and friends. To my surprise, they all came to the wedding!

Afterwards I taught public school and returned to the world of higher education to obtain a masters of music degree. It was at this point that I realized the Lord had a plan and mission in my life. Even more profound was that I then returned to the University of Arkansas and taught as a visiting professor of percussion. At an early age, my professional goal was to teach percussion at a major university. And, at the age of 25, the Lord allowed me to reach this goal. Currently, I live in Norman, teach at East Central University, and am completing the requirements for a doctorate of music degree. My wife is also a successful elementary teacher, having obtained similar degrees.

I shudder to think where I would be today if I had not said those words to my mother. It must have been very difficult for her to let me go. I truly believe that my life would be dramatically different—for the worse—if it had not been for my mother’s love and faith in the Lord. I also look back and think about the many houseparents that have worked for the Baptist Children’s Home, dedicating their lives to the children whom the Lord brings to them. Just as important, I thank the Baptist people of Oklahoma for their many generous contributions. But for their spiritual love and generosity, I would not be the person I am today. Oh, by the way, I never wore burlap or shaved my head.

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