EAST CHICAGO | Denitra Brown wakes up every morning, thanks God for the day and says 'hello' to her mother.
Sometimes it's a little harder in the month of December. Brown doesn't want the end of the year to come, and once it's here, she wants it to slow down, not speed across the finish line.
It's not that the E.C. Central point guard isn't a big fan of Christmas, or even a Scrooge avoiding the holiday, it's just that she finds it hard to gather up typical spirit.
"Every year Denitra gets a little bit down in the month of December, it's taken me now three years to realize why that's happening," Cardinals coach Eric Kundich said. "She does not say anything. We ask her to do something, she just goes and does it, 'yes, Coach.' It might not get done the best way or with the best effort because she's down, but at least she tries."
As much as Brown doesn't want to see December, she really doesn't like January. This year, Jan. 11 will mark the third anniversary of her mother's death.
Denitra is the fourth -- and youngest child -- of Catherine Love. She is quick to describe herself as a "Mama's girl."
"Anything I wanted, anything I needed, I'd go get it from my mom," Brown said. "If I'm going to go here, my mom's going to pay for it. If I wanted to go to college, my mom's going to pay for it. ... I just basically went to her for everything, and now that she's gone I have to do it for myself, take care of myself and learn to be a woman. Sometimes it's time to grow up, time to play, time not to play, and I just take that everywhere with me."
The 2009-10 basketball season marked the only year that all four Brown children were a part of the E.C. Central system. Daviness was a senior, Donte was a junior, both on the boys team, and Denitra was joined by sophomore sister Dontaysha on the girls team.
Denitra said that doctors found a blood clot in Love's lungs and she stopped breathing, and couldn't be revived before paramedics could come to the house.
Denitra, who suffers from asthma, said it was her mother who always reminded the youngest child to keep an asthma inhaler on her body and keep herself medicated to keep herself alive. Later that same year, when Brown collapsed in class during an asthma attack, the older children rushed to their sister in school.
They still rush to each other.
One has a family, one still plays basketball, one is about to join the Navy and the last is averaging 5.0 points and 2.7 assists in her senior year with the Cardinals.
At the holidays, while other families are surrounding a tree or exchanging gifts, the Brown children want to find some sense of normalcy together.
"We experienced everything together," Brown said. "It's never one child went through something, it's all of us at the same time. All of our struggles and pains were at the same time, not one for each or two for each, it's all of us."
"I can't imagine, but all four kids really had to grow up quickly," Kundich said. "A lot of them had responsibilities at home that they didn't have when Mom was around. They're the ones helping Dad run the house throughout those last two or three years. When one kid goes home or does their homework or calls their friends or does all this social media stuff kids do these days, those kids were home doing laundry and cooking."
In January, they will gather again together at Catherine Love's grave.
"We normally like to do things for our mom, and we like to meet up at the cemetery," Brown said. "We take her balloons and cards and we go and have our moments there. We try to spend as much time together as we can."
This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.