If you missed the last post, you can catch up here.
The last post ran a little over into the beginning of this story; somewhere in the mess of the head lice incident, I had a birthday. I know this because I received an adorable teddy bear with a shiny pink bow right before we hosted those pesky little critters. Unfortunately, that bear was left behind in the washer machine with the rest of our lice-riddled friends.
Top: Shane, Laurel
Bottom: Me, Marie, Carrie
So anyway, here we are (above), now in foster care, and the years begin to run together. I don’t remember much about my first family besides the fact that I was there alone. My parents names were Michelle and Dan, and they let me watch The Black Cauldron over and over as many times as I liked. I remember Michelle used to fold her hands funny when she prayed, as if she were trying to create a hand-cinnamon roll. That was highly distracting.
My next few homes kept switching pairs of my siblings, but for the most part, we stayed in the same cul-de-sac in St. Joseph, IL. Marie was just a baby, so she didn’t get moved around a lot. I was paired with Carrie for a while with a family I don’t remember well. I know they took us ice skating and I thought they had a larger-than-necessary garage. At that point though, I guess any garage was larger than I was used to because trailers don’t typically come with a garage?
The first home I remember well was that of the Gootre’s (above – that’s me there in white!). They had 3 boys of their own and had a few other foster kids besides us running through the house as well. From my understanding, the little mini-community was mostly foster parents, so the kids all played together on the playground in the middle of the turn-around during the day, and at night, we’d go back to our respective homes. I don’t remember there being many rules at the house, but Carrie had a bad habit of sucking her thumb, and it was starting to affect her maxillary dentition. The Gootre’s tried several approaches to breaking the sucking, like painting her fingernails with a distasteful solution, putting hot sauce on her tongue when they caught her, and plenty of other efforts, I’m sure. From my recollection and her current desire for braces, they were all in vain.
Our co-passer-through, Vanessa, was a total badass. She’s the hispanic girl in the picture above. I don’t know what my fascination with her was, but for years, I wanted to change my name to Vanessa, to be like the skateboarder I knew for all of probably 2 weeks.
The Gootre’s son Kyle (stripes in the above pic) was my best friend at the time, and simultaneously, my first crush. There was just something about that cowlick on his hairline that I found so adorable! We played all kinds of stupid games we made up, one being “sights and sounds”. We explored the house as if we were detectives, tapping on the walls and listening for mysterious noises in return. We came up with stories of what lay behind the walls, and spooked each other as we hid behind furniture in the living room. One day as we were hiding behind the couch (him) and the recliner (me), Kyle decided it was time for show-and-tell of his willie. He then immediately ran to his mother and told her that I had asked to watch him go to the bathroom. Dumbfounded, I had no choice but to accept my punishment of skipping snack time and going straight to nap time. OOOOhhhh, I was peeved. I laid under my bed covers cursing my foster family with a five-year old’s worst insult: the sticking-out-of-the-tongue. I recited each member’s name and stuck my tongue out immediately, as if they would feel my disdain through to the floor below, where they merrily ate their oatmeal cookies without me. They would all bear my wrath for Kyle’s lie!
I don’t know how long I stayed with this family, but later, I found them on Facebook, and they insisted that they had tried to keep my siblings and me, but the state denied their request and pushed us along to the next house. I guess it is more profitable for the system to keep kids in rotation for as long as possible? I don’t understand all the dirty details. Anyway, this type of story came out time and time again as people from my past trickled back into my life. “We wanted to keep you, but….” or “I wish I could have helped, but…” – different variations of a life that could have been. I listen dutifully as people try to explain their actions, but really I don’t care anymore. My life happened as it did, and I’m happy with it. I can’t imagine any scenario that I would have favored any more than the one I lived.
My next family was the Wilson’s (above). See if you can figure out which Aunt Jemima lookin’ ass is me. 😒 In my time in this little town, I was enrolled in a kindergarten class at St. Jo’s elementary, and I was a cheerleader with their daughter, Bridget, and my sister, Laurel. They also had a son, Dallas, who was enrolled in football with my brother, Shane. We all had pictures of ourselves as little Spartans (below), which still to this day is probably my best portrait ever. Maybe bangs will come back some day and I’ll be renewed to my 90’s glory.
I don’t remember finishing out that academic year, but I do remember that my foster mom forgot to get me from school one day, so Mrs. Ward and I became fast friends. It was also at this school that some girl stapled her fingers together in music class, and I cut the webbing between my fingers while trying to counterfeit construction paper monies. Man, that was the life – there was never a dull moment.
Unfortunately, it was hard on Bridget and Dallas having new siblings all the time, so they weren’t always happy. On more than one occasion, Carrie would come inside bawling because Dallas (the devil’s spawn in the above pic with his hands in his pockets) had thrown her favorite pillow and cuddle blanket onto the roof. *** One time I came outside to see him sitting on her head, with her face smashed into the dirt, and he was pulling violently on her hair. I don’t remember whether we told their parents, or if they were oblivious with so many rugrats, but either way, there wasn’t any punishment. Hey, boys will be boys though, am I right?
Shane wasn’t a fan of our frequent moves and sibling cycle, so he ran away once. He didn’t make it far, and the police found him sitting against the wheel of a school bus within hours. They returned him to us, but let me tell you now, this wasn’t the last time Shane decided to stretch his legs. (Hint, hint, foreshadow).
One day, we got a new foster kid in the house, Chris (emo-looking Jedi on the left). I don’t know what his deal was, but he had apparently gotten into some trouble, and was now subjected to regular drug tests. His parole officer came to the house and followed the rebellious teen down to the bathroom. I always thought this was weird, but didn’t know why the guy wanted Chris’s pee so much. We hated Chris and frequently plotted to curl his noodle in Bridget’s curling iron.
Tyler and Charlotte were allowed to visit us in our new homes, as long as the visit was supervised by a case-worker. I think Tyler only came one time, pictured in the last post, but Charlotte came a few times. We had to meet at an empty house, and not for very long, but she brought snacks like popcorn and little canned weenies. We loved those visits and I think exchanged letters when we could. Years later, we learned that Charlotte kept anything we touched in those visits, including half-consumed sprite bottles. Clearly, she wasn’t willing to give up and let go like Tyler was.
Eventually, a young couple from Springfield, IL approached the Illini Children’s Christian Home and explained how badly they wanted kids but couldn’t have any of their own. Petting their beards understandingly, ICCH knew just the kids for the job. My siblings and I packed our trash bags and again, we were on the move.
*** Later I learned that Dallas may not have actually been the aggressor, but some other foster children who were there at the same time we were. You never can trust the memory of a 5 year old, can you?