About Elea Lee

Former foster parent, adopting parent, writer, educator committed to child advocacy and providing safe places for children and abuse survivors.

Return of the bad mom

I tell myself to find her, in the old kitchen where she did so many dishes by hand. It had yellowish linoleum, dark wood, and doors which lead out to the front room and dining room. We sit at the ugly white table with the thin plasticky band of gold around its edge.

I run my finger along its long-gone edges as we drink something warm together.

I tell her she is beautiful, she has always been beautiful, even in those years she could not see it. I tell her I admire her courage and willingness to to be the bad mom. I tell her I have learned from her mistakes.

She would tell me something, surely, what is it?

In a house so full of sturm and drang, I want to hear her voice over the din of the little ones

So long gone.


The Parable of the Lost Mother

She sat in a chain restaurant twenty years ago, this time of year, not knowing that she would forget her purse there so close the federal courthouse. Retrieve a purse; retrieve a child. Strange calculus of loss.

The Parable of the lost mother–

Waiting for the baby who does not remember who they once were together

So long ago.

Every day I walk through cold water

First there was the shock-shock, which I would describe as a blanket of cotton, a fog, a zoned-out staggering thing. I am not sure how long this stage lasted, but it began to ebb when the nice women at the crisis center gave my five year old and her sisters their crime-victim quilts, hand-made, with such kindness.

The quilts underlined the permanent nature of the gift–beautiful crime victims. Undoable. Irrevocable.

Our story seemed one way for years, then just as things got safer because we knew and could protect them

The truth rolled over us, applying permanent tattoos everywhere.

I did not realize I had a thrill-seeker, risk-taker issue until the months of hunger, tears, and fighting were over…all technically either lost or a draw. Until after I wrote the book. Until after people began to disappear.

By then I had begun to walk through cold water.

Now I know why I do it. I do it because…I do it because

Because when I walk in cold water I can see you there

Through the dust

The crush of angry humans

The agony of your bedraggled well-wishers.

Your own pain indelible on your bloodied face

Dying for me


In cold water.

Dear Lisa, Anne, Travis*, Dr.,

I read this morning that Sasha Obama may have made a decision about where she is going to college. I am happy for her. Happy she knows. Happy she is happy.

When I found out my daughters had been sexually abused by their adopted brother I was immediately aware of the similarities and differences between my children and Sasha and Malia.

Both sets of sisters are:

Are multiracial

About the same age

Have well-educated parents

They even share the same initials

Years ago I asked myself, “what would the world do if the Obama girls had been the victims of felonies?”

Surely we would mourn and pour out support for them.

I would hope we would, at least.

My daughters were the victims of abuse during the Obama administration. The way they were treated by the criminal justice system was a function of the Bush and Obama administrations, as well as the specific decisions of the elected officials of all three of the branches of the state government of Texas.

My partner and I argue about why they have and are being treated a certain way when they apply to universities in Texas and elsewhere.

He says it is because they do not attend a public school and that is all.

I maintain that while that has been a point of obvious discrimination against one, the other seems to have encountered additional roadblocks because she has written openly about her status as the victim of a crime.


Committed against her all before her eighth birthday.

She had the courage to write about being a sexual assault survivor and is now experiencing what I call bureaucratic limbo.

I rejoice for the Obama girls, but I cannot help but wish my daughters had the same rights they have.

The right to education and the right to be heard.

Due process. I am still waiting for due process.



*Some names have been changed because I don’t always edit as carefully as I should.