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  • "Look Mama! A buuug," shrieks my 2 year old son, Dylan, pointing into the stained porcelain bathtub - a past babysitter gave him a ton of love and an unnatural fear of creepy crawlies.

    "Honey, that's not a bug, it's a newt." I scan my ex-boyfriend's bathroom for a container to scoop the creature up in. Too late, the translucent, orange amphibian scampers under the metal drain stopper.

    My dilemma: I don't want to squash the thing - I am squemish about killing anything, even the prolific, New Orleans roaches, I've had to get used to since I've been back - but my son and I are both filthy and exhausted; we need a bath. I try to remove the stopper but can't unscrew it or pull it out. I try running a little water down the drain - maybe it will send him back out.

    I had seen this little fellow before. He had been hanging out on the bathroom windowsill last week; the first week we had moved in here temporarily. And I had left him alone - he was cute.

    Screw it I think, I'm tired. I push down the stopper bracing for the squish - nothing. I run the bath.

    Later lying in bed, staring up through the support beams to the exposed insulated roof, I think of that newt and hope it didn't drown - it feels like an omen. Maybe I should look up it's symbolism tomorrow.

    I do a quick scan of the bare sheetroock walls for roaches. Our first night here, one landed on Dylan's pillow right after turning out the light. I heard the swishing of it's wings and the plop as it landed. In the dark it was just a shadow on the pillow. My son saw it fly to the walls when I whipped the pillow off the bed. "Look Mom, a flying spider." Took a few nights before I could sleep with the light off again.

    We're living in a construction zone - It's a perfect reflection of my life. Broken apart and being rebuilt. Just over a month ago, my son and I had left the relative security of living near my parents in Virginia, and moved back to New Orleans during the heat of summer. Tony, my son's father, is out of town and let us stay at his house while I looked for a job and the 'new home' that Dylan keeps asking for. After making a few dickhead decisions when I got pregnant, Tony had done his best to come to terms with fatherhood. And I was grateful for the roof over our heads.

    I'm scared. After a few interviews and dashed hopes, and with my savings quickly dwindling; the back-up bartending/restaurant job is looking like my best option. It got me out of debt when I last moved down here - January 2006 - right after Katrina. But it's a lot harder to navigate that lifestyle as a single mom. Babysitters are more expensive than daycare and I haven't wanted to ask Tony for too much.

    Then there was the call I got yesterday from a resume I had sent out. "We want you," she had said, without a single interview question. It was a commission only sales job, the same kind of work I had done for the last two years, the kind of anxiety-provoking job I did not want to have again. Training was tomorrow, all day. My sister said she could babysit but I had a bad feeling about this job. I could hear my Mom, my sister, my ex's family, "You need to just get a job" and "my goodness what does she do all day."

    I've been a hermit; depressed; trying to put a good face on for my son, but feeling so alone. "I have so much support down there Mom. I have so many friends, " I had reassured her. "And Muriel's there too." But it's hard to ask for help, even from your sister, hell sometimes especially from your sister. And they have helped tremendously and offered to help. But I loathe feeling like I'm always asking for something, never giving. All my available giving just seems to be sucked up by my son, who is quite literally, still nursing.

    After a sleepless night, I call Tony. "If I get a bartending job, can you watch Dylan for a few nights a week?" I wait through what seems like a really long pause and hold back the threatening tears.

    "I don't know." I hear a long sigh over the distance. "It's not that I'm afraid it's going to cramp my partying or anything - I mean, you know I hardly ever go out" - true, and he doesn't drink - "it's just I have a hard time committing to anything."

    No kidding, I think, but have learned to hold my tongue. "But I guess I could do that." I feel a glimmer of hope.

    ""I was thinking nights might work better cause you could paint at night after he goes to sleep" - Tony is a struggling artist.

    "Ya that could work."

    "Thanks Tony," I choke out, through a well of tears. "That means a lot."

    Walking into the bathroom to brush my teeth, I spy the little newt. He survived. I feel a surprising blossom of warmth in my chest.

    Later, I google "symbolism of newt". Turns out they are in the salamander family and they are remarkable little creatures. Aside from the their amazing ability to regenerate their limbs and tails if removed, they also exude a toxic substance from the skin, which not only pretects them from predators but also enables them to survive a moderate fire. These firewalkers are powerful symbols of renewal, survival, and rebirth.

    Somehow this gives me an unbelievable sense of hope.
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