Racine, WI. This place is so unfamiliar. The sights, the sounds and especially the people. All eyes on me. How did we even get here? Fade to black for a flashback…
Another day. Left alone to our own devices. So young and full of uncertainty. Just wanting to be settled… to have peace and to rest; but something doesn’t feel right. My heart was racing so fast. I didn’t know what was going on or why. Mama was gone, AGAIN! My sisters and I alone in the apartment trying not to make too much noise. But there came a knock at the door. Maybe Mama lost her keys. Maybe her hands were full of groceries, finally! I don’t remember which one of it was, but the door was opened but we didn’t see Mama. Standing there was a neighbor, a police officer and a person in a suit with a briefcase in hand.
Instantly I was afraid and from the looks in my sisters’ eyes, so were they. All three persons walked through the door without even asking. Stoic faces on the police officer and the lady with the briefcase; a look of concern on the neighbor’s. They wanted to know where Mama was and how long she’d been gone. While the officer asked questions, the lady looked around the house; in the refrigerator, the cabinets, bedrooms. Without a word, she nodded to the police officer. His face softened slightly as he spoke softly, asking my sisters and I to get our jackets because we would be leaving with them.
Confused & afraid as we were, we complied. We were just children after all, what else could be do? I don’t know where they took my sisters, but I ended up with a nice elderly lady named Miss Mae. She didn’t like a lot of noise, so I stayed pretty quiet. I recall the red shaggy carpet on the living & dining room floors. A built in curio cabinet and wood table in the dining room. I wasn’t allowed in the living room but I had my own bedroom. My own bedroom!!! MY OWN BEDROOM!! With a nice clean bed! I had clean clothes, food and a crate with a few toys that were my own. Miss Mae was full of love, patience and compassion. I was so thankful.
Eventually my sisters, Mama and me were reunited. But that was the beginning of the vicious cycle of going into foster homes, reconciliation & returning home to Mama. Round & round we went for years. I’d had a few social workers over the years, been placed with my sisters and alone. Happy then sad. Relieved then anxious. Can you say instability?
At eight years old, my younger sister & I were placed together; Celeste, alone. I suppose it was difficult to place three young girls together but we needed one another & no one seemed to notice. Mika and I were placed with the Stokes family. They were such a huge family, full of loving people. They loved on us like were we actual members, born into their family. We ate well, traveled, had clothing, were clean. The peace I needed; the calm… I had it. No uncertainty about anything. More than those things, we experienced real love and support for what seemed like the first time in our lives since we left our own family in Chicago.
After a short time passed, Mika and I were separated and she was taken to a group home while I remained in the Stokes’ family home. It was the first time in my life that I had been comfortable enough to be in the home with a man and know without doubt that he wouldn’t harm me. The foundation for my spiritual beliefs and my relationship with Christ began in the Stokes’ home, I am eternally grateful for the entire family’s love and support then & even in recent years. For two years of my life, I lived with them, grew, learned and matured. I felt safe, loved, secure, settled and happy! Yes, I missed my sisters and mother, but every child craves acceptance and stability & I finally had it. It was (at the time) the most traumatic day of my life was when I had to leave. It took almost 13 years before I could see them again, but when I did, it was as if I’d never left!
Next article: MY body, MY temple, right?