It’s a classic story we’ve heard time and time again. Girl graduates from high school. Girl goes to UCLA. Girl gets knocked up. Girl gets kicked out of UCLA for missing too much class due to knock up. Girl has baby girl. Girl begs UCLA to take her back. UCLA takes girl back. Girl has no childcare. Girl leaves baby girl with parents far away. Girl is sad. Girl gets call from UCLA Child Care saying they’ll keep baby girl…for free! Girl brings baby girl to LA. Girl graduates by the time baby girl becomes toddler girl.
Oh, where is boy? Boy is a loser. But that’s a different story.
So this week’s note goes to the place that took a chance on a party girl from the Central Valley: UCLA Child Care. I applied to their program just a few days after I found out I was pregnant – a surreal week, precisely 23 years ago. We’d been back only a short time from Winter Break, which I’d spent canoodling with my hometown boyfriend. The “telling” about the pregnancy was hardest. Despite their disappointment and upset, once my parents knew my situation, I took on the role of single pregnant teen quite fiercely, not much shame in my game. That would come weeks later, the week of the LA uprisings, when my dad had to drive down amid the helicopters overhead and the enforced curfew to pick up me, my stuff, and my growing belly after news that I was ineligible to continue with my studies Spring Quarter as, already on probation from my disastrous Freshman year, I did not earn a C average Winter term. So I left.
But thank goodness for petitions. UCLA accepted mine to return with the condition that I keep healthier grades. What choice did I have? I was single, unskilled, and had nothing on my résumé but a brief stint working at the student store. I returned in January the following year, set up by my parents in a plush (for a college student) Westside apartment. But without my baby – Kelsey. It didn’t seem right.
I remember the words of one of my mom’s friends after I’d made the decision to return to school and have my parents keep Kelsey: “It’s best this way. She can’t finish school and take care of a baby.” When that call came from UCLA Child Care, only about a month into the quarter, they gave me a chance to prove homegirl wrong. Within hours after hearing from them, so launched the plan to get Kelsey back to me. My mom would bring her down on the train (have I mentioned before that we’re train people?).
It’s been 22 years but that day still flickers richly in my memory – the moment when I saw Kelsey again after being away for weeks; how she gummed a smile and couldn’t stop, couldn’t contain herself because she knew me. She remembered me. That was how it was meant to be – me, my baby, and my education.
We didn’t stop with a bachelor’s degree. UCLA Child Care helped me through grad school also, and allowed Kelsey to learn from some amazing teachers, among the first class of students to finish at University Village Kindergarten. I certainly could have gone to school without their help. I might have had plenty of study time, much more rest, less anxiety from ear infections and lost binkies; but I would have missed out on the sparkle that was my baby. The garbled first words and the wobbly steps on her own, and simply the pleasure of being her mom. This week, I finally thanked UCLA with a short and sweet note for allowing me to be both a parent and a student. I’m just sorry it took so long for me to reach out to them as they were a tremendous blessing to my classic story.
By the way, I used these new note cards I got at Target by Mara Mi. Super cute. Too bad they didn’t have them in Bruin Blue & Gold.