- Associated Press - Monday, October 2, 2017

MCALESTER, Okla. (AP) - Nadia Talley Zorin found safety and a lifelong friend on a neighbor’s front porch swing when she was a child.

Zorin, of Mission Hills, California, said she often felt unsafe in her own home while growing up in McAlester before meeting her neighbor, Sarah Tucker, who became her source of refuge.

“(Sarah) was able to tell something wasn’t right,” Zorin said. “If I ever came over, she never turned me away. She never made me feel less of a person.

“My life was chaotic and dangerous, and the only peace I had came when I was on her front porch swing,” she added.

The McAlester News-Capital reports that although Tucker knew something was not right, she did not know many of the intimate details of Zorin’s life.

“I would just talk and be there for her,” Tucker said.

Tucker said she always had children coming over to play with her two sons and one day, Zorin found her way over when she was 8 years old.

“She didn’t come over to play with the boys, she came over to sit on the porch with me,” Tucker said. “She just wanted to talk.”

Tucker said she knew that Zorin just needed somebody to love her, give her attention and be there when she needed help.

The two formed a bond and Tucker said she wishes she “could have just kept her.”

Zorin said her household was unstable when she was growing up.

When Zorin was 14 years old, she moved away from McAlester. The Department of Human Services stepped in and Zorin moved to California with her aunt and uncle.

When Zorin moved away from the neighborhood, Tucker assumed she would never hear from her again.

“Kids come and go and I figured that was the last of her,” Tucker said. “But this one came back.”

Eleven years after she moved from McAlester, Zorin decided to come back and pay her hometown a visit. In 2014, Zorin, who was 24 at the time, was volunteering at a religious camp in Norman, Oklahoma, when she went back to McAlester. Her grandparents are still residents here. She wanted to see if Tucker still lived in the same house. Zorin said that when she drove in front of the house, she was overwhelmed with feelings.

“It (the reunion) was such a happy moment,” Zorin said.

“One day she (Zorin) showed up at our door and we immediately knew it was her,” Tucker said. “She was the same, spunky little girl that she had always been.”

Tucker also added that she still has the same porch swing.

Tucker said she was thankful that Zorin came back and that her visit helped her in many ways. Tucker said she was ill at the time and Zorin was able to provide her with natural remedies that boosted her immune system.

“She probably doesn’t know how much her visit helped me,” Tucker said. “When she was a child, I helped her and now she’s helping me.”

After Zorin’s visit, the two became friends on Facebook and have been able to keep in touch ever since. The 20 years or so difference doesn’t affect their relationship.

Now, Zorin said she speaks four languages and is a sign language interpreter at California State University-Northridge.

“I absolutely love my job and I’m super happy,” Zorin said.

She said she studied pre-med at CSU-Northridge and said she “accidentally became an interpreter” at the school after unknowingly signing with the head of the department one day on campus.

“He asked, ‘Why are you not an interpreter?’” Zorin said. “He took me to the office and said, ‘Make her an interpreter,’ and they hired me.”

Zorin is also a musician, a piano teacher and a voice coach.

She said her interest in music started at McAlester’s Edmond Doyle Elementary School.

“I wanted to play saxophone, but we were too poor, so I had to go with trombone,” she said.

She added that she felt “indebted to the McAlester band instructors” for providing their knowledge and fueling her passion for music.

Tucker said that Zorin was an intelligent young woman and that she is still searching for that motherly love.

“As nightmarish as my childhood was, I wouldn’t trade it today,” Zorin said. “I wouldn’t have the friend I have today.”

Tucker describes their relationship as “a unique friendship” that is more like one shared by a mother and daughter.

___

Information from: McAlester News-Capital, https://www.mcalesternews.com

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