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Out Of The 'Wreckage Of The Past,' A Family Salvaged By Love

Jasmine Pacheco and her mother, Carmen Pacheco-Jones, on their recent visit with StoryCorps in Spokane, Wash.
Jasmine Pacheco and her mother, Carmen Pacheco-Jones, on their recent visit with StoryCorps in Spokane, Wash.

Carmen Pacheco-Jones, mother of five, was addicted to heroin. As she would get high, her children would often skip class — sometimes "half the school year," her daughter Jasmine Pacheco says, "because there was nobody to make us go to school."

The situation didn't last, though.

"I remember when the task force raided the house," Carmen tells her daughter. "You guys had gone off to school, and I was in the bathroom getting high. I heard this bang-bang at the door and the police were through, and it just happened so quickly."

Her children were taken away from her that day. Jasmine, now 27, joined her mother in Spokane, Wash., for a sit-down with StoryCorps — and she remembered a devastating moment about two decades behind them.

Back then, when the raid picked her mother up, Jasmine recalls she was in school. Her counselor called her and her siblings in, told them they wouldn't be going home that day. Then, the siblings were separated. They sent to different foster homes, trash bags bearing their belongings along with them.

"I was afraid that I would never see my mom again," Jasmine says.

"My heart was breaking because I had been through that," Carmen tells her. She says she, too, had lived in foster homes as a child — 13 of them. "I knew that desperate feeling of aloneness and fear."

Carmen remembers a moment from her own childhood when, in a courtroom, Carmen says she heard her mother telling the judge she didn't want her. "And so," Carmen says, "when I left the detox center I was like, 'Even if I don't get them back, I'm going to let them know they're worth fighting for.' "

I knew that desperate feeling of aloneness and fear.

When Carmen regained custody of her children, Jasmine was in sixth grade. But Carmen says the fear and regret of her tumultuous history persisted. "All that wreckage from your past, it never goes away," she tells Jasmine. "There's always that fear, it's [that] I don't want to ruin my children's lives."

But in the end, they were reunited. Carmen, who has been clean for 17 years, plays a big role still in the life of her daughter — and these days, her granddaughter, too.

"Just being a part of your life and watching you parent — to me that means the world, to know that your kids will never have to go through what you went through," she tells her daughter.

Jasmine agrees.

"Growing up, I never saw myself as someone who could change things. And you know, now I am doing that."

Audio produced for Morning Edition by Liyna Anwar.

StoryCorps is a national nonprofit that gives people the chance to interview friends and loved ones about their lives. These conversations are archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, allowing participants to leave a legacy for future generations. Learn more, including how to interview someone in your life, at StoryCorps.org.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.