Monday, April 26, 2010

"Someone to Laugh With.... And Sometimes, a Shoulder to Lean On."

It's a picnic gathering unlike many gatherings in Kingsport..

Hot dogs and cheeseburgers cooking on the grill.. music blaring from a nearby car stereo.. and the kids jumping on the playground equipment, wrestling with each other as kids do, trying to see how many potato chips they can stuff in their mouths.

This picnic is different.

It's organized and held every once in a while.. by single moms.

The single moms of Riverview.

All told, they say they have three things in common.. kids they love with all their hearts.. fathers who are not 100 per cent in their children's lives... and an occasional need to lean on each other for support.

To see a slideshow of the picnic for the Single Moms of Riverview, please click here.

To see downloadable pictures of the picnic for the Single Moms of Riverview, please click here.

"When I was growing up in Riverview, we always had a way of supporting each other," says Kalena Butts, mother of a little girl, Tamaar. "It was always a positive atmosphere, and the moms were always there for each other. Sometimes, it's somebody to share a laugh with..other times, it's a shoulder to cry on. Sometimes, all we got are each other. The good thing about it is, our families understand that sometimes, we need to be around someone our own age to share stuff with."

"One of my best friends has a little boy," she says, "and we help each other out all the time with just about everything..finances, we take turns picking up kids, food. It's just someone to lean on when we get depressed or something. If she needs it, I'm there for her, and she's there for me if I need support."

These picnics are an extention of those friends, magnified many times.

"We have about 7 or 8 single moms in our group," says Anita Harris, who has no children, but lends support to all of the moms whenever possible. "It's good when we can all get together, let the kids play together while we're watching over them, and we can socialize, share our problems, and lift each other up."

"Support is so important when you're single with a child that you love and will do anything to protect."

This gathering at the Dale Street City Park is the 4th time the group has gotten together. The atmosphere is festive, folks passing by, slow down and honk their horns in greetings.. other people stop by, just to share some food, and to help watch the kids. "Today, there's more children than we've seen in a while, says Anita. "There's a few more moms here, a couple of them that are not usually here, but today, they've come out."

The togetherness aspect is not lost on the fact that the same atmosphere was present in Riverview, before the Apartments were torn down.

"Since Riverview died down," Kalena says, "there just hasn't been any place for us."

"The projects were special to us because everybody lived so close together," says Anita. "Special, because we all grew up there, and it was easy for our parents to watch the kids. It was a disappointment to lose the apartments. Now, we don't have no meeting spot anymore. You could go to Riverview and see just about everybody, because they were close by."

"The mama's were there," Kalena remembers, "the grandmama's, the aunts and uncles, everybody. When they torn the homes down, we didn't have a spot anymore to meet and talk. Our spot is gone now."

But optimism for the future remains.

"It will eventually come back around," Anita says, "and when it does, it will be a good thing. Until then, we have to make stuff happen for ourselves, and the picnic today is that. We still have a good time, the fellowship is good, and everybody's there for everybody else. And the kids wear us out."

"If our get-togethers and picnics get bigger, it's probably all right," she says. "we invite any single mother that pulls up to join us. We don't deny anybody any food, in case somebody's child comes. We always buy more food than we need, because it's spur of the moment. Even today, it was a last minute thing. We had just come back from a baby shower and usually we all hang out on my daddy's porch. Somebody suggested, 'let's cook out,' and it was off to the grocery store."

Staying positive is a key factor to the single moms getting through the days.

"I just want my little girl to be around positive things," Kalena says, "so that when she gets older, she'll know how to keep it together with positive things in her life."

It can be difficult for single moms to be positive sometimes. Many of them fight an uphill battle every day. But with this group, there'll always be a friend to share a laugh with..

And a shoulder to lean on.