A homeless teen mom abandons her newborn twin babies so they can have a better future, but years later she comes back into their lives in an unexpected way.
Tandy Freebody was just sixteen but she already knew how hard life could be. She’d been born into a dysfunctional family in which her father drank too much to feed his children, and her mother prayed too much to raise them.
So Tandy grew up in the uncertain world of one trailer park after another, in the strange nomadic community of the hopeless and the dispossessed, until even the little she had was taken away from her.
Like so many girls like her, Tandy was hungry for affection and approval, so when a tall smiling boy told her by the fireside on a long autumn night that he loved her, she believed him.
Later, when she discovered that she was pregnant, she was horrified. The God of her mother was a terrifying being who offered condemnation instead of consolation, so she couldn’t even pray.
She tied scarfs around her belly to try and push in the growing signs of her sin, but one day her mother suddenly looked at her, and for the first time actually SAW her.
“Tandy Halloran Freebody!” she screamed. “What have you done?” Stella Freebody was a woman who knew that sin had to be scrounged out of the weak, so she picked up her husband’s belt.
She advanced on Tandy with the belt held high. “I’ll beat the devil’s spawn out of you!” But Tandy was already backing away towards the trailer door, her hands over her belly.
“No, mama!” she cried. “You’ll hurt the baby!”
All children need to grow up in a happy, supportive environment.
“How dare you, you sinner!” Stella cried, but Tandy had already glimpsed her mother’s purse on the counter by the door, and in a swift movement she grabbed it and ran.
Tandy didn’t stop running until she got to the bus terminal. She went into the toilets and locked herself into a stall before she opened her mother’s purse. Three hundred dollars. Mom must have been paid for her cleaning work.
Three hundred dollars wasn’t a lot, but it would get her to New York. In New York, she’d heard Old Sam say, you could be anything you wanted, and if you had talent, you grabbed your spot.
Old Sam had been a country singer once upon a time. He’d taught Tandy to play the guitar, and he said she had ‘something.’ Maybe in New York that ‘something’ would give her and her baby a chance at a better life.
Tandy dreamed all the way, about being a star. She dreamed the dreams that little girls dream — and that was what she was. Another lost little girl in a hard and ugly world.
Tandy quickly learned that there was no magic in the streets of New York, especially not for a pregnant sixteen-year-old with no money. She quickly discovered where it was safe to sleep, and where she could eat for free.
She walked into a free clinic once because another girl told her about prenatal vitamins, but when the nurse told her she needed to see a doctor and do some tests, she ran.
One morning, she woke up and felt like she was dying. The woman who was sleeping in the bed next to her called the woman who ran the shelter for help, then she stole Tandy’s backpack.
Tandy was soon taken to the hospital and gave birth to not one but two babies — a boy and a girl. The nurse put the babies in Tandy’s arms and she couldn’t believe how beautiful and tiny they were. One of them grabbed Tandy’s finger with minute, immensely strong fingers.
Tandy couldn’t imagine taking these two tiny, fragile creatures into the streets with her. It was impossible, they would never survive. So when the nurse took the babies away to do some mysterious things with them, Tandy slipped out of bed, climbed into her dirty clothes, and walked out of the hospital, and she didn’t look back.
On top of her bed, she left a note. It read in her square childish handwriting:
“I love my babies but I can’t take care of them right now. Please, look after them. Their names are Peter and Mary, cause these are holy names and I guess they need to be safe from sin and danger.
“I can’t protect them right now. I will try to come back for them, but if I can’t, please tell them I love them so much. I leave them so they will be safe.”
Tandy cried for a long time, then she started thinking about all the dreams she’d had on the way to New York, and she remembered her ‘something.’ Old Sam had been a broken-down old drunk, but once he’s played at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, so if Old Sam thought she could play, maybe she could.
Three days later, Tandy found an old 12-string guitar with busted strings in a dumpster. It was like a sign from heaven. She borrowed money from Sexy Sall who trolled the corner on Cypress and Starr and bought a new set of strings.
Tandy restrung that guitar, and she started playing. It sounded terrible at first and it made her fingers bleed, but she picked it up real quick. She took her guitar down to the subway to try and make some money.
At first, she played all the old songs Old Sam had taught her, Patsy Cline, and Kenny Rogers, and Glen Campbell, but then she started playing her own songs, songs about the bitterness of being alone and the sweetness of being free, and people liked it.
One day a guy came up to her. “Hey man, you’re trending on YouTube!” he said grinning and waving his phone at her. Tandy just stared at him.
“Me? On YouTube?” she asked bewildered. He showed her and there she was, with millions of views. That same day, a camera crew from a TV station interviewed her, and two days later, a famous singer came down to the subway to talk to her.
“Honey,” the woman said in her famous smoky voice, “I like your song.”
“Which one?” asked Tandy, and started playing them one after the other. The singer loved the songs, and she said that Tandy was a gifted songwriter and she wanted to buy some of her songs.
It took a long, long time for Tandy to get her feet on the ground, and when she had several of her songs on the charts, she decided maybe it was time to look for her kids.
Tandy found them, and for a long time, she just watched them. She saw that they were loved and happy. She saw them run to their dad when he came home, and play with their mom in the front yard.
She saw that her children had something she’d never had and that if she came into their lives right now, she’d do them more harm than good. So she decided she was going to walk away from them.
She made her decision sitting on a bench in front of their school, and the tears were running down her face. Then she heard a voice. “Lady, are you OK?”
It was Mary, her daughter, and she was looking at Tandy with concern and kindness. “Yes, I’m fine,” Tandy said.
“Why are you crying?” Mary asked.
“I guess I’m sad because I have to leave something behind,” Tandy said, and Mary sat down next to her and held her hand.
“Listen, my brother and I lost our mom when we were babies. She had to leave us so we’d be happy,” Mary explained. “But we know she loves us always. I’m sure the person you left knows you loved them too, and the love is all that matters.”
Tandy walked away, remembering her own daughter’s words: “The love is all that matters.” She wrote a song about that and it was a hit, and she came to terms with her decision, although she still looked in on Mary and Peter once in a while.
The year that Mary and Peter turned 18, Tandy was standing outside their door, trying to catch a glimpse of them, when the door suddenly opened and Mary ran out crying.
Mary crossed the street, and just walked blindly, and Tandy followed her. Finally, Mary sat down on a low wall by the lake and Tandy approached her. “Honey,” she said, “Are you OK?”
Mary shook her head. “No, I’ll never be OK again, never.”
“Why not?” asked Tandy softly.
“I’m pregnant,” Mary said. “And I want to have my baby and marry my boyfriend, but my parents…They think I’m too young to have this baby. They think it will ruin my life…”
Tandy put her arm around Mary. “Listen, I’m sure your parents are very worried right now, so why don’t I take you back home. Talking about things is the only way to resolve them.”
Mary was reluctant, but Tandy insisted. She called her driver and had him drive her and Mary back to Mary’s house. Tandy walked to the door with Mary and rang the doorbell.
Mary’s mom opened the door, and she was crying too. “Oh baby,” she cried, hugging Mary. “Where have you been?”
Mary’s dad looked at Tandy with an unfriendly expression. “Who are you, lady, and what are you doing in our house?”
Tandy took a deep breath and said, “I’m Mary and Peter’s mother and I’m here to help in any way I can.”
The family was shocked, and Tandy explained about running away from home, and having her babies at 16, and playing in the subway for food. She told Mary and Peter that she had come back when they were 15 and went away again.
“But now,” she said quietly, “maybe I finally can help. I have a big house, I can take care of your baby Mary if you want to have it, you are not alone like I was. You have two families to support you.”
Mary’s parents agreed to allow Mary to marry her boyfriend (even though they still thought she was too young), but she stayed in college. Mary and her husband moved into Tandy’s house and she takes care of her granddaughter.
As for Peter, he is as talented a musician as his mom, and they love jamming together and have started writing some songs he hopes to get recorded. Tandy is finally part of a big happy family.
What can we learn from this story?
- All children need to grow up in a happy, supportive environment. Tandy grew up in a dysfunctional home, and she had no help and support when she was in trouble.
- Love is all that matters at the end of the day. Whether you are there every day or not, make your decisions based on love and what is best for your loved ones.
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