Photo Credit: Melissa Hovanes
Molly Layton, 23, lives in her dream house (which she found in Flagpole) with the love of her life and her adorable 2-year-old son, Casey Jr., but she hasn't always had it easy. When we sat down for the interview, she mentioned the recent Everyday People with Johnny and Cheeseburger. "He really is the nicest man," she told me, "When [my husband and I] were homeless, we ran into him a few times, and he was so nice." Molly has a friendly personality and exudes loads of confidence, and I'll admit, I was surprised to hear about all that she's been through.
Flagpole: You were homeless?
Molly Layton: Me and my husband—we got together, my cousin actually introduced us—we met downtown at one of the local bars, and we just hit it off. I loved him from the moment I seen him. And I had just moved to Athens with my cousin—we got our first apartment. It was really hard for us to get on our feet at first and we lost that first apartment. We moved in with other friends and like couch-surfed and then I got pregnant. [My husband and I] just really didn't know what to do. We were struggling, he couldn't find work—he was putting applications in everywhere—but it was OK. We have definitely made it to where we're at now. We were stable by the time I had Casey. We have a nice little house.
FP: So how far into your pregnancy were you when you became homeless?
ML: I got four months, and we lost everything. We actually had to sleep outside behind the BMW dealership off Atlanta Highway. I actually got bit by something on my face while we were out there and I had to go to the hospital the next morning. It was terrible. Bad experiences. But it definitely made us stronger, and we are very proud of everything that we have now. Everything that we get, we appreciate it. And I think it's going to be a good story to tell [Casey] when he gets older so he can really understand how hard life is, you know. I moved out when I was 18. I turned 18 and I was like, "I'm gone." My parents told me, they were like, "You're not gonna make it. You're not gonna be able to get out there and just start out with a great life." And that was true, I couldn't. I really struggled. But now, it's better. We have this small little country-style home we want to buy and we're working are way to buying two cars, so that's exciting.
FP: And what does your husband do?
ML: He works at a car detail shop on Broad Street... He's a certified mechanic. He can do a little bit of everything, it's just where they'll hire him at and to use him for what--jobs are really hard to find right now.
FP: So how long were you and your husband dating before you got married?
ML: We were together for about four months, and I was like having this baby fever, so I wanted a baby. So we talked about it, and I know that we were strangers and we were young, but we were like, "Let's do it!" Yeah, so we jumped right into it. And after we had been together for about four months, I got pregnant. We got married before I even found out I was pregnant. We were just madly in love, and we were just rushing into things—didn't know if it was gonna be something we were making a mistake at, but we were just following that path. So, we went and got married, actually in South Carolina. Oh, it was actually Clarke County there. Yeah, we live in Clarke County and then we got married in Clarke County. What was the name of [the city]: Walhalla, I think? But I got my little wedding ring at a pawnshop. It was like $100. It was... our decision, like neither of our parents were—I'm actually adopted, my mom passed away when I was 17—but neither of our parents approved. We were just young and in love. And then about, I would say a month after we got married, I just started throwing up really bad. And I was like, "Babe, I think that I'm changing now that I'm married. I think I'm getting sick or something." So he took me to the hospital and sure enough, I was pregnant. We were excited. But, pregnancy is very hard. Like I lost so much weight at the beginning.
FP: Lost? Like from morning sickness?
ML: Yes. I lost 30 pounds. I couldn't eat anything, I couldn't hold anything down. But then by the end of my pregnancy, I had gained 90.
FP: Oh, wow.
ML: Yeah, I was huge! I was a big balloon! [laughs]
FP: And you spend a lot of time with Casey. What do you guys do during the day?
ML: Well, I just got my license back 'cause living in Jackson County—I like to speed, and Arcade has a really bad speed trap. Speed-trap century, I lost my driver's license, so Casey, my husband, would drive us around everywhere. I never thought I'd get my license back because the ticket was outrageous, but we had this little rinky-dink beat-up truck, and on this past Valentine's Day, he sold his truck and got my license back. I know it was so sweet, 'cause I never thought we'd have that money to be able to pay the ticket. Since then, we've gotten the other car, so I can drive too while he's at work. And we'll go to the parks and stuff. We go to Bear Hollow by Five Points and [Casey Jr.] loves the animals.
FP: So what kind of things do you like to do?
ML: Well me and my husband, we do a lot of video games or cards. We do game nights with my friends. We'll drive out to Madison County and my best friend—her name is Devon—she has six kids. Oh yes, huge family. So my son, since I only have one, he loves going out there and playing with all her kids. But we have game nights about twice a week and we'll go out there and play like “Grandma”—it's a card game—or “Imagine If”. We'll have an adult game of cards and all the kids will be asleep or they'll be out on the trampoline.
FP: You said you were adopted?
ML: Well, I had a really rough childhood. My mom had five kids, all by different dads. Which is a really hard thing to live with, 'cause none of the guys were around. I moved out as soon as I could when I was a kid. I was like, "I'm not going to stick around for this." So I went into a couple different foster homes with my little brother that was five I think at the time. And I would go stay with family members and stuff, cause I really had my own choice. But then, when my mom passed away, my little brother had to go into foster care. And I didn't want him to be alone. Seventeen [years old] and I went with him. I got adopted. I didn't want to leave him, you know, he had just lost his mom and I was the only thing he had. So he went to this strange home and I went with him. But as soon as I turned 18—I was only there for a year, I made sure he was comfortable made sure they were going to be good people to him. And then I had to go out and do my own thing because they wanted to be parents to me, but I just lost my mom and I couldn't do it. It was really hard for us to connect, so as soon as I turned 18, I left, and I came to Athens and just started on my own. But, they still have my little brother, and he is doing great, he's definitely in a better place... We had been in and out of foster care ever since we were little. I know the first time he went into foster care he was five. When my mom passed, I think he was seven... And then my dad is still alive, my biological dad. He lives in Texas, which is were I was actually born.
FP: Did you stay in Texas for long?
ML: Um, no my mom moved us all out here whenever I think I was like three, so I really don't remember Texas much. But I went back out there and met my dad when I was 14.
FP: Oh so you met him and everything?
ML: Well everybody, you get to that point and you're like, "I want to know who my parent is." So, I searched him out.
FP: Did he want to meet you?
ML: Yes and no. He was kind of the same way my mom was, a little bit of an alcoholic. It wasn't the greatest meeting. I was really young. I didn't know how to react to him and I guess he didn't know how to react. But, recently, me and my husband saved up some money and we went out there together as a family. We all drove out there as a family. I have an older sister from a step mom out there and then I have another older brother as well. I have a huge family [laughs]. It's everywhere. So I went back, and since I was older—I think I was 22 when we went out there—it was a lot better experience because we were able to actually communicate, we knew what to talk about and now we have a really great relationship. I talk to him about twice a month, two or three times a month.
FP: And what does he think about Casey?
ML: Oh he loves him to death.
FP: So were you in touch at all with your dad during your childhood?
ML: No, like I had never gotten a birthday card. I remember as a kid crying to my mom at night and was like, "Why didn't he come with you?" I just didn't understand. But it really wasn't my dad that didn't come. It was my mom that left. He told me she would get her check—her first husband passed away from a brain aneurysm—and it would just be party, party, party. And then at the end of the month when she didn't have any more money, it would be staying at home with him. But she just left, I guess, and came out here and started all over again.
FP: So did you grow up here in Athens?
ML: I grew up in Jackson County.
FP: You were in and out of foster homes...
ML: Yeah. I personally was only in two different foster homes, but my little brother was in four. The first foster home I was in, I didn't like it. I was there with my brother and they treated us terribly, but I didn't know what to do.
FP: How old were you?
ML: I was young. I was in middle school. Ages are all so bad. I had so much stuff to go down, so I can't really pin point an age. I was in middle school, getting my learners permit. But, they were just really not a nice home. So I ran away. I ran away and I left my brother there and I wrote this really long note and I was like, "I'm gonna come back for you. I'm gonna get us to a safe place," you know.
FP: When you left, was it because they were...
ML: They were physically abusive. [DFACS] shut their home down. I went and I ran back to my biological mom before she passed away. I went to her and I was like, "Please help us. I'm so sorry that, you know, I've gone to school and I've told people this and that." 'Cause I was venting to my councilors about what was going on at home, so it got involved with the DFACS. But it worked out for the best. Yeah, so when I ran away I went to my aunt's house, which is were my mom was at the time, and I fell asleep and she had called DFACS on me. So when I woke up, the cops were there and they were taking me to the DFACS office. It was very stressful, but I told them what happened [at our foster home] so they went and got my brother and they placed us in a temporary home over night and they shut her home down, which made me really happy. We had been there for a really long time and there was kids coming in and out and they were doing it for the money and they were just abusive. They were using the kids for kinda like slave labor is what I felt like. She had a dog kennel and she was just very bossy, I don't know. I mean she was kinda nice, I don't know how to explain it, but not all foster homes were nice. Not at all.
FP: Wow, I mean you hear stories like that…
ML: There were times like, my little brother was under the age of seven, and I would just watch her like yank him by his arm and just drag him to his bedroom. It just broke my heart and I didn't know what to do so I just ran. And I told everybody that I possibly could what was going on... [DFACS] interviewed her a really long time. There were other kids in the home—they would have ADD problems or bipolar issues—and she treated them really bad. She didn't care, she cared about that money. It was very sad. And then after that temporary home, they placed us with Fred and Celeste, which is who adopted us. And they already had a little girl. Her name is Angel. She's really nice. She's my little sister.
FP: How old is she?
ML: She is, I think she was four when we moved in and she was already adopted and now she is 12 and my brother's 14.
FP: So do they get along well?
ML: Um, just like brother and sister. They do. My little brother was so young, he's probably repressed a lot of it. He's really quiet. He's a ginger and he's got the red hair—yeah, we're really Irish—and he's really tall. I'm 5'9" and he's 6-foot-something, and he's only 14. So I feel like he does probably get picked on and that's probably why he's quiet or something. But it will get better. He's going into high school this year and he's joining the drama [club]. He was in band, but he went to band camp for marching band this year and it was way too hard on him so he dropped out as soon as he went back to school.