By Sofia Ahmed
JAHNYE 1: Mom means a lot to me.
SKIP 1: It means guidance. It means being there.
JAHNYE 2: A mom is a strong independent woman who fights for her family, who’s very strong, very loving, very warming.
SKIP 2: And it also means, sometimes, letting him find his own way, but being there for him.
JAHNYE 3: A mom is someone who will tell you right from wrong, whether you like it or you don’t like it. That’s my idea of a mom.
SOFIA 1: You just heard the voices of Jahnye Mitchell and his mom, Skip. The two are very close, but they don’t have a typical mother-son relationship. Until a decade ago, they weren’t a part of each other’s lives.
This is Telling True Stories in Sound, and I’m Sofia Ahmed.
SKIP 3: I literally only had Jahnye for about four or five months. Today I’m in recovery from addiction and I’ve been clean since 2007.
SOFIA 2: Skip sits by the window in her living room in a grey sweatsuit and smokes a cigarette. When Jahnye was born, Skip had been struggling with addiction for years. She had two other older sons that she wasn’t able to care for. And she was trying to stop using, but had no family support.
SKIP 4: And I fell off. And I went out one day and Jahnye was in the daycare. And I never came back. And they took him.
SOFIA 3: Jahnye was placed in foster care. Skip started using crack cocaine again. She spent the next few years in and out of jail for using and selling drugs. She didn’t think she would ever see Jahnye again. Meanwhile, Jahnye got adopted by his foster family. He didn’t find out he was adopted until he was about eight years old.
JAHNYE 4: So all I can remember is my mom pulling me and my brother into the room, and she goes I have something to tell you guys. And then she started telling us that like we were adopted and then all I can remember was just bawling, crying like I was crying crying crying, cause I couldn’t believe it.
SOFIA 4: After this conversation, Jahnye always wondered about his biological family. He was acting out in school: not going to class, fighting with people, and being disruptive. He says it’s because he felt like he was missing pieces of a puzzle. When his adopted mom, Belinda, bought him a laptop for school, he googled Skip’s name.
JAHNYE 5: So I clicked her page. And as I started going through her pictures, I’m like, Oh my gosh, she really looks like me. And I was just so happy like just scrolling. I just kept scrolling. And then I sent her a message like a paragraph stating that you know, who I was, my name, my date of birth.
SOFIA 5: By this time, Jahnye was twelve years old. And Skip had been clean for about five years. She was leaving her apartment to go to work when she saw Jahnye’s message.
SKIP 5: Oh my god, this is my son. This is my baby. This is my youngest son.
JAHNYE 6: She responds like yes, yes yes. A light came over my chest. Like, it was so different.
SOFIA 6: Skip got Jahnye’s adopted mother, Belinda’s, phone number. She asked Belinda if she could meet Jahnye, and Belinda invited Skip to their house in Brooklyn. It was Skip’s 46th birthday.
SKIP 6: And I was full of questions. What’s he like? What’s he do?
JAHNYE 7: I wonder how she talks, like how does she sound? Does she sound like me? Does she look like me in person? Is she nice, is she mean?
SOFIA 7: Skip drove down to Brooklyn from Yonkers. Her first impression of Jahnye was that he was cute and pudgy, and reminded her of herself. They sat on the couch in the living room and talked.
JAHNYE 8: Of course I was asking her, like why did you do that? And she told me. Like, at the time, I was upset. I couldn’t be mad at her.
SOFIA 8: And Skip was honest with him. She told him about her drug addiction and how she had gone back and forth to jail.
SKIP 7: You know, the places I’ve been in, I couldn’t have had you with me. You know, you had a good life, somebody took you in, took care of you. And then I make fun of him. Look, look, look at that belly. She feeding you, right? You got clean clothes, you got whatever you want. If you had been with me, you wouldn’t have had all of that.
SOFIA 9: Skip told Jahnye she was gay, and that she had a girlfriend. She was worried that Jahnye might not be accepting of her lifestyle.
SKIP 8: And he was like no, I don’t have no problem with that. I said okay, good. So what you into. What’s going on with you?
SOFIA 10: After that meeting, the two reconnected easily. They had shared interests, like fashion. Belinda wanted help with raising Jahnye, so Skip started co-parenting him. She would drive down to Brooklyn every weekend and take Jahnye to different parts of the city. She took him to amusement parks, ice skating, the beach. And when Skip married her wife Doreen in 2017, five years ago, Jahnye walked Skip down the aisle. Eventually, Jahnye started calling Skip mom.
SKIP 9: And I remember he came into the kitchen, and said Ma, and we both said what. And it was at that point that I really realized that he really thinks of me as his mother. He loved me to death. But he also loved her. And there was nothing I could say about that. She took care of him all these years
SOFIA 11: Skip was there to take Jahnye’s prom pictures, where he wore a $400 blue custom made bejeweled jacket with matching blue eyeshadow. One of Skip’s proudest moments was when Jahnye graduated high school four years ago.
SKIP 10: And he called me to come up because they have this kind of like rope. And they was like who has been the most influential person in your life, get them to come up and give you a rope and he called me to come up.
SOFIA 12: In August, Belinda passed away. She was over ten years older than Skip, so Skip saw her as a mother figure as well. At Belinda’s funeral, Skip thanked her for taking care of Jahnye all those years. Skip supported Jahnye while he was grieving his mother’s loss.
JAHNYE 9: We just got closer. I felt like during the passing of my adopted mother, I only had my brother. But throughout the whole process my mother was there though, she was.
SOFIA 13: Today Jahnye is 22 years old and works security at a homeless center. And Skip is a criminal justice major at St Francis College. She’s in her final year of school. After, she plans on getting her masters so she can work on criminal justice reform.
On her way to school, she passes by the building that was once Little Flower, the foster agency that placed Jahnye with his adopted family. Skip is also an adopted child. But…
SKIP 11: I’m not as brave as my kids. My kids went looking for me, and found me. I’m not that brave. I don’t want to look for my real mother, because I fear rejection. So I’m okay, I’m okay.
SOFIA 14: For Jahnye, reconnecting with Skip answered some of his questions. He also found his two biological brothers. And he’s now searching for his biological father, hoping to put together the final pieces of his puzzle.