In my previously published post, I served tea with this story. Therefore, the post is accompanied by photos of my tea.
Two little girls, ages two and three, huddled together on the steps in front of the brick building. They sat very still, being careful to not wrinkle their new dresses. The older girl held the younger girl’s hand in her lap and watched intently as each vehicle approached. She put on her best smile as a lady climbed from the car and walked briskly past them, without even a glance in their direction. The girl’s smile drooped, and a worried look crossed her face. Through the open window, she could smell the breakfast sausage and hear the clatter of dish clean up in the kitchen. She began to wonder if they would eat good meals at “the new place” (as she had begun to call it in her mind). She glanced at her little sister, and for the umpteenth time that morning, wished that she, like her sister, was young enough to not understand what was happening.
The orphanage lady (in her head, “orphanage lady” was what the child called the director) had explained to her that new parents would come take them away today. New parents! A man and a woman whom they had never met! Although the sun was shining brightly and they were wearing their new sweaters – one pink and one blue – a shiver ran down her spine. Of course she was worried about “the new place” and the new parents, but she was even more worried that they would pull up in a big car; get out and take a look at the girls, and decide they didn’t want to take them after all. The orphanage wasn’t a bad place, and she didn’t mind staying there. The fear she was fighting was that of not being wanted. Most of the nice looking couples who came to the orphanage wanted one of those little babies that was always crying in the nursery room.
Her mind drifted to the old lady’s house. She had no idea how long they had been staying in the tiny white house with the fragile looking old lady who told them to call her “Gram”. There were no toys in the house, but the kind old lady took out a jar of buttons and let the girls sit at the kitchen table, gluing the buttons to paper. On the kitchen wall, there was a calendar with a picture of Jesus. It seemed to be the only ornamentation on the walls of the little house. There was one child-sized rocker in the living room, and the two girls had fought over the right to sit in it. Gram cooked everything they ate in one pot on the stove. It was poured into bowls and eaten with crackers. Gram called them Saltines, and she put two on each of the girl’s plates.
At night, Gram put the two girls in a big bathtub and told them to bathe. The older girl helped her sister bathe, and Gram usually called from the other room, “make sure you wash behind your ears”. When they had dried themselves, Gram pulled a long white nightgown over the head of each girl, and sent them to sleep in a room across from her bedroom.
Through the open door, the older girl watched as Gram took down her bun and brushed hair that looked just like the old lady – very thin and very brittle – as if it might break at any moment.
The last night at the home of the woman, they were shocked out of sleep by a loud banging on the door. The two girls sat up in bed and watched as the old lady shuffled to the door. They could hear someone shouting, “Police Officers”. The girls crept from their bed, and hid behind the partially opened door as they watched the two policemen talking quietly to the old woman. To their shock, the old woman suddenly sat down in the floor and began sobbing. They ran from their room to console her – or maybe to console themselves in their fear. One of the men’s eyes widened when he saw the two little girls. The men helped Gram into a chair and one of the officers tried to distract the children with his car keys and a flashlight. The other officer spoke in soft tones to Gram, as she nodded her head in agreement.
The old woman tried to speak to the two little girls, but the words wouldn’t come out through her sobs. The policeman told the older girl that the old woman wanted them to go with them in the police car. The girl wasn’t frightened about going with the police, but she did feel that she needed to stay and help this fragile woman, who was still sobbing loudly. Knowing that she couldn’t abandon her little sister, she walked out onto the porch, still hearing Gram’s sobs. It was hard to think of the old lady, crying all alone in that empty little house.
Seated in the back seat of the police car, the girls didn’t respond when the police officers tried to talk to them, and except for chatter on the police radio, the car became quiet. The younger girl quickly fell asleep as they rode, but the older child stayed awake, looking out the car window as they passed farm houses with no lights in the windows and then approached some larger buildings, much closer together than the farm houses she was accustomed to seeing. Some of the buildings had lights on inside, and the girl noticed more cars on the streets. She heard cars honk their horns, and she wondered to herself why they were honking.
When the car stopped, one policeman picked up the sleeping little girl and carried her up the steps of a big brick building. The older girl followed closely behind her sister. She heard the policeman say to the woman at the door “parents killed in a truck wreck”.
That is how the two little girls eventually ended up sitting on the steps of the orphanage in their blue and pink sweaters, waiting for new parents to arrive.
Yes, the older little girl was me (Obviously, I didn’t miss any meals at the orphanage!). That day, my little sister, Julie, and I went home with wonderful, loving parents. I don’t know how much of this I remember and how much of it I dreamed, but all of it feels very real to me.
I thought that Mother's Day weekend was a good time to re-post this, since my sister and I were so blessed to go home with such a wonderful Mother that day.
I miss you every day, Mother. Happy Mother's Day. Love, laurie
Since most of you have read this post before, and I cherish the beautiful comments you left previously, and since I'm really just re-posting this for myself, I have turned off comments on this post.