YEAR EIGHT

If you missed the last post, you can catch up here.

Disclaimer: these years blurred together, so this part of the story is definitely going to be a bit jumbled.

Now, Dale and Laura were huge believers in nap time and I was a huge believer in trying my damnedest not to sleep when someone told me to. One day, they sent me, Carrie, and Marie up for our naps as usual, but they told Shane and Laurel that today they could skip. This was highly unusual, so I immediately felt left out.  I waited until I thought they believed I had listened and was snoozing in my twin bed, and snuck out of my room, creeping sneakily down the stairs. Apparently I had the stealth of a bulldog in a china shop, for I wasn’t lurking long before my parents called me out. “Steph, we know you’re there – you may as well come sit down.” Sheepishly, I round the corner of the stairs to see my siblings sitting side-by-side in our wooden kitchen chairs as Dale and Laura stood in front of them, arms crossed. “We were explaining to your brother and sister that we’ve been thinking, and we can’t handle all 5 of you kids, so Shane and Laurel are going to go live with a new family. You have a choice – you can stay with Carrie and Marie, or you can move too if you want.” Me, AN EIGHT-YEAR-OLD heard this and excitedly thought “HELLZ YEAH, GUYS! WE’RE GOING ON AN ADVENTURE!”. What I actually said was, “I’ll move with Shane and Laurel.”

In the moment, I thought that I was finally a big kid and people were taking me seriously from now on. I was visibly inflated with self-importance. What I realize now is that it’s actually pretty messed up to have a child decide which pair of siblings she should cast her lot with, though I could never live with myself if I had abandoned them to endure what happened next alone.

This is where our stories split. From what we’ve been told, the Vallards went on to raise Carrie and Marie as their own, and tried to distance them from us by saying we weren’t siblings, but mere cousins. We didn’t see them for years at a time and rarely exchanged letters because it “upset the girls to hear from us”. Well, Laura, imagine how upset we were knowing that we had sisters in Indiana when we were next door in Illinois, and couldn’t understand why someone wouldn’t let us visit!

Talking to Carrie when she was 18, years later, she says that there was an almost tangible divide between her and Marie. Dale and Laura loved her more because they felt she was more their daughter, as she was a baby when we left and had very few memories of her life before them. Carrie was a more difficult child because she did remember us and her former life and, unsurprisingly, she had questions.

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Above left to right: Marie, Laura, Carrie, and Dale Vallard

Carrie says they would take Marie on fun, week-long cruises, while sticking her in math camp. Marie had more freedom and more benefit-of-the-doubt throughout her childhood. Carrie remembers being dropped off one day at a group home, never to see her adopted parents again. Holidays and seasons came and went, without so much as a visit or a letter to say when they’d be coming to pick her up. After a little over a year, one of the employees of the facility took a liking to Carrie and brought her into her home, assimilating another teen in need into her already-blended family.

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Carrie with her new mom, Jackie and her biological son.

Carrie started developing behaviors that would bleed into her early adulthood, specifically seeking attention no matter the cost. She spun wild stories and told them to anyone who would listen. Many of her stories were of a sexual nature and were sometimes at the expense of people she loved, in one instance accusing her step father of being a child molester and in another, accusing her foster brother of sexually assaulting her. People reacted in the same manner, at first being outraged that someone would take advantage of sweet little Carrie, but as time went on and the tall tales grew wildly out of control, the initial protective instinct would fade to exhausted head nods and eye rolls. This would mean it’s time for her to move on. Years go by, the cycle repeats itself over and over, relationships are destroyed, and before she knows it, Carrie is left with no one once again. It’s a sad but predictable story for her, but for one so deprived of basic family structure and nurturing, who is surprised that someone would take extreme measures to find love, attention, or desire, however superficial it may be? At 23 years old, Carrie has plenty of time to turn her tale around, so hang on, reader, and don’t abandon all hope yet.

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Carrie today, from her Facebook page.

YEAR NINE

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