In the most commonly accepted scenario, a parent raises their child. In more instances than many realize, however, the opposite occurs. This role-reversal may be encouraged or facilitated by a practical immaturity, as in adolescence, or an instability—as result of emotional, mental or physical restrictions—on the part of the supposed nurturer.
As a co-ed majoring in Early Childhood Development, I'd done practicum work with teen moms, some who were, at the time, not much younger than I. With a support system in place and examples to follow or not, as I saw fit, I had something those young women didn't. An overwhelming majority of the program's participants had been led astray by their own immediate family members, relatives, classmates, girlfriends and boyfriends, having been instructed, sometimes only by omission, that they had no choice but to follow a certain path. Many resigned themselves to a status quo as presented and, truth be told, looked forward to being charged with a child whose only option was to love them unconditionally. Yet, there were those determined to do better, to finish their schooling, to live more productive lives than the ones to which they'd been pre-assigned.
In My Sweet Vidalia, I examine this scenario from a different perspective—one less practical, more otherworldly.
To explore these possibilities I needed to draw an omniscient narrator with a strong connection to the protagonist. And how much more robust a connection could there be than that of parent and child? At its core, My Sweet Vidalia is a mother-daughter love story, albeit an atypical one, where spirit-child Cieli Mae attempts to help free her young mother's own spirit, empowering Vidalia to become the woman she was meant to be.
Reports surface regularly of those who beat the odds, come out on top, despite humble or devastating beginnings. Literary best-sellers featuring heroes and heroines of this same persuasion abound, from The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game to Unbroken. But what is it that separates the wheat from the chaff? The mere existence of a proper support system does not dictate a positive outcome. A nurturing terrain in and of itself will not ensure success, nor prevent hazardous results. The spirit, too, must be willing.
In a perfect world, the two—inner strength and supportive surroundings—come together in harmony. But while even the best environment cannot overcome a lack of intestinal fortitude, a determined psyche can conquer all, and all on its own terms.