Today’s post features a story wrote by our 18-year-old daughter, Lexie. Our family fostered 15 children over the course of a few years. The following story was wrote by Lexie in the fall of 2008 for an English Composition Class. And was published in the January/February 2009 Issue of Fostering Families Today. Initially when she wrote this article, I was unable to read it. Holden was one of those kids who moved into our heart, as well as our home. We thought perhaps our family could love him enough to give him the life any 10-year-old deserved. However, his problems were beyond what our family could manage. So, when he left our home for more specialized care, we grieved. During this grieving process is when this story was wrote. When I was finally able to read the story (because of prompting from Lexie’s teacher) I realized God had a plan far beyond what I could have seen when He placed this child in our home.
The hot July sun burned high above the light blue sky as white puffy clouds slowly danced by. Dozens of suntanned children scrambled around me, blurting out shrieks of joy as they plunge into the transparent waters of the Phillipsburg Municipal Swimming Pool. Holden meandered on the cracked cement, moving closer to the white picnic tables full of young teenagers. I watched his every move. I felt as if I rested on a six-foot stand, dressed in a cherry-red bathing suit monitoring the numerous tiny bodies splashing around me, the way I focused on my ten-year-old foster brother. Vanilla ice cream accompanied by melting chocolate, saliva, and peanuts streamed off of his chin onto hi plumb, chocolate-colored tummy. Little eyes curiously stared in our direction as we found a seat in the crowded mess of junior high students at the white table covered with residue from weeks of old treats. I recognized their questions by their facial expressions: “What happened to him?” “Why does he slobber like that?” My bright-blue eyes stared back; I interrupted their thoughts and made the teens quickly turn away. Angry thoughts started to fill my mind as I noticed the many eyes once again glued on us.
My family started doing foster care at the end of my sophomore year. I guess that’s when I noticed my small-town neighbors paying excess attention to my always-changing family. We accepted children from all different backgrounds, anywhere from African-American teenage mothers to beautiful Spanish toddlers. Many strangers, not knowing our situation, would stare and give unappreciative looks. The looks weren’t the hard part in foster care, or even close. The youth and infants coming and going impacted my life; I parted from many people that I wanted to keep in my family forever. After fourteen foster siblings leaving though, Holden wandered into the life of my family.
As with every other child or teen we accepted in our home, we knew very little about Holden in the beginning. Reports and caseworks quickly informed us. They started with Holden’s horrible past. Because of the very severe abuse since his birth, specialists diagnosed Holden as mildly mentally retarded. He also had oppositional defiant disorder,making it hard for anyone to handle him. Holden’s problems only grew. A few weeks before his placement in our household, his grandmother, the one of Holden’s family members strong enough to take care of him, died.
Not knowing what to expect of my family, Holden tested us with misbehavior and occasional defiance. My mom and dad quickly let Holden know this behavior would not happen in our home. My parents also told Aubreah, Trevor, and me that our laughter would not be acceptable, since it only encouraged him; but we had never seen such an entertaining and ornery little boy. Misbehavior came naturally to the ten-year-old, but deep down he had a mind jam-packed with imagination. Whether Holden rocked out on a guitar like Elvis, making up songs that always started out with, “Everybody clap your hands;” or had incredible strength like the Hulk, his mind carried him anywhere. My personal favorite of Holden’s characters defined himself as Prince Charming, which magically made me Cinderella.
As I sat at the white table filled with junior high kids and Holden that bright July day, tears began to fill my eyes. I quickly hid my face in hopes Holden would not notice his Cinderella crying. As the cold tears continued to slide down my cheeks, I finally realized at the age of sixteen the unfairness of life. I pondered why life turned out the way it did. Why could Holden not ride his new red scooter down the driveway without falling, yet my siblings and I all played sports effortlessly? Why could kindergartners know they had a messy face, yet Holden had to be told, “You’re drooling”? These questions piled up on my brain. Fury boiled inside of me. I wanted to rage at the entire world right then, but suddenly I turned the anger toward myself – not that I made Holden mildly mentally retarded, but because I never saw life the way he did.
As I pulled myself together and tired to camouflage the tear streaks on my face the best I could, I looked at Holden. Ice cream and hot fudge now covered his chin, face, and the hands that once held the sugar-cone villain, which created this dark milky mess. I rushed Holden over to the chrome water fountain by the swimming pool entrance, so I could wash him off before he hopped in the pool and left the job of removing the sticky dessert to the chlorine. After he swashed the warm water all over himself and the cement, letting the ice cream make a new temporary home on the ground, Holden look up at me with his mouth of many missing baby teeth and smiled. In that very moment, I knew exactly why Holden had come to my family.
Holden educate me about himself while he lived in my house, but he taught me even more about myself. Not only did he let me learn to reach out more and help those with greater needs, he also taught me about true strength. Holden received every curve ball in life, but instead of giving up, he would ride his scooter even after scraping his knee and flash a true smile even after someone else teased him because he drooled. The same smile appeared after he cannon-balled back into the cool waters of the swimming pool creating a mediocre splash, even if he needed my helping hand. Other people may say the sun brightened that July afternoon, but I believe Holden’s smile did, just as Cinderella’s did when she first saw Prince Charming.