Brennan had been planning the surprise for days.
On Oct. 10, the 7-year-old would ask his neighbors at Stout RV Park to take him to H-E-B so he could surprise his mom with the prettiest birthday bouquet he could find.
"He comes back knocking on the door a little later with these beautiful flowers," says his mom, Jennifer Tate, 47, adding that the bouquet contained hues of blue, purple and pink and was doused in glitter. "He did a really good job. It was really sweet."
It was a bright spot in what has been a "really rough" year for Tate, a single mom and sexual assault survivor, and her son, who has a disorder called mast cell disease that can trigger allergic reactions to almost anything at any time.
"He can go anaphylactic on you really easy, so I've got EpiPens, and he takes five different allergy meds every day," Tate says, adding that her son also has ADHD.
Tate and Brennan relocated to Texas last year with their dog and two cats. They left her other children, who are older, behind. On the way to Austin, they learned that their housing had fallen through. Since then, they've been living in their cramped and deteriorating 27-foot-by-9-foot trailer at Stout RV Park in Georgetown, sharing the trailer's small bed and storing boxes that don't fit outside under the trailer.
"Sorry about these darn flies," she says, referring to a swarm that had entered the trailer during a recent visit. "There's so many of them."
Inside the trailer, hanging on the wall is a sign adorned with dragonflies that reads, "Live well. Love much. Laugh often."
Tate, who is on medication to help with her depression and also has OCD and PTSD from abusive relationships in her past, says it serves as a reminder to keep moving forward.
"Dragonflies are a symbol of change and transformation, of who we should become, of who we're meant to be," she says.
Finding work in the Austin area has been a struggle for Tate, who says she frequently has to rely on the kindness of strangers to provide for herself and her son.
"There was a time we didn't have groceries," Tate says, "and (a family) didn't even know us and they stopped by with all these groceries."
In October, Tate started a new job as a preschool teacher that she hopes will offer a fresh start for her and her son.
"There comes a point where you go, 'I need to be on my own two feet; I want to take care of this stuff on my own,' and you just start feeling so guilty that you're relying on so many different people for so many different things. You know you should be the one carrying that already."
But Veronika Lopez, a program manager at SAFE Alliance, said Tate should be proud of how far she's already come.
"Her and Brennan's relationship is really strong, and she's overcome a lot of obstacles to be where she's at today," Lopez said. "Now she needs to take care of her son."
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