My daughter Destini wrote this for a class this year…I thought it was really good so I thought I’d share. Destini is eighteen years old and a senior in high school.
In most cases, “you’re going to have a new sibling” is a surprising, exciting, interesting, unusual experience for a family. For me, this happens about once a year. My parents live as foster parents and have for as long as I can remember. In my 18 short years, starting at the young age of 5, I have had more than 18 siblings. My house has always seemed a sort of “Blockbuster” of children.
We have ‘New Releases’. The fragile, the angry, the dramatic, the traumatized. We get the young, scared ones whose lives have been nothing short of a horror movie. The small children who have just been ripped from their families…hot off the presses. Straight from the studio, where their few years have been illustrated and documented in an up-close-and-personal tale titled ‘Abuse, Drugs, and Things You’ll Never Understand, So You Love Your Parents Anyway’.
Also in the category of ‘New Release’ reside the older teenagers. Ones who have spent their whole lives in a secret, dysfunctional world where they were probably raised knowing how to cook meth, but not how to spell their own names. These kids usually come shy, quiet, and keeping to themselves. They stay strong, and never cry, because that would warrant either punishment or a complete lack of attention where they come from. They will make you laugh, cry, and find yourself overwhelmed with the desire to hug them. Usually these ‘New Releases’ won’t stay long …they are over-nighters. They’ll often be bounced around from home to home or eventually go back to their families.
The first example that comes to my mind in this category was the beautiful, popular girl from my English class. She sat in front of me, and always had the cutest clothes…and cutest boyfriends. I was always jealous of her, I remember. Until, of course, my mom got the phone call that this particular girl was at the hospital waiting on a foster family. She and her little sister had gotten torn from their mother just hours before after the cops discovered their mother was a well-known methamphetamine dealer. The girl, it was discovered, was already well addicted to meth. She was brought to our house on a long, silent drive, and proceeded to curl up on the hard wood floor in front of the fire place without a word. She didn’t care to wipe off the usually perfect makeup that smeared her face. Her breathing was heavy and she shook as she lay there. Meth Withdrawals. After hours of this, she found her way into the living room where she curled up and fell asleep in a chair. We offered her blankets, food, and pajamas, but she declined with a silent shake of her head. The girl was gone when I got up for school the next morning.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, we get the ‘Old Releases’. They’re often older, with more pain in their eyes. These veterans of the system come as usually one or both of two things: angry or comedic. The angry ones often are beyond fixing. They’ve seen too much…you can see it in their faces. They cover up their pain by lashing out, because it remains the only thing that has ever worked. Sometimes it may seem the only thing that will get them attention. The comedic seem often overly rambunctious. Their jokes, bits, and anecdotes elevate to extrememely loud, so everyone will listen. But they have the same intentions as the angry. They use their comedy to cover up a past full of pain, and unthinkable horrors. Always friendly, always smiling, and always seeking attention. Regardless of how they cover it up, they’ve all gone through the same routine. 11 homes in six years… 15 in seven. The longest placement they’ve had did not surpass a month or two, before getting shuttled on to the next waiting family, who will reject them once more. We had an eight year old boy once who asked if he could stay for a long time… “like three months”. The old releases, they’ve lived through the ringer. Their life stories will make you cry by the time they recount the first five years of their lives. They don’t fly off the shelves nearly as fast as the new releases. No one wants the older versions. Most just go from home to home until they get old enough to get cast out of the system on their own, because by the time they reach a certain age, why does it matter?
Last, there are the Classics, or lifers – either the lucky few who get adopted as babies, or the biological children who just have to watch from the sidelines. I’m a Classic, a biological, the only one who has mom’s nose and dad’s hair color. I watch the different stories from an outsider’s point of view, feeling guilty because I’ve always had parents who love me and I’ll never truly understand. I’m the babysitter, the big sister, and the tour guide. We’ve seen all the stories, from babies with AIDS, whose diapers we had to change wearing rubber gloves, to the little boy who came from a world of abuse and neglect yet still cried for his parents. Classics, we remain the mediators. We help decide who stays and who goes. We know all the stories, everyone’s background. We can immediately differentiate between new and old releases; between the angry and the comedic. We classics, we’ve mostly lived the good life. But we live here to help. We listen to the stories, and baby the ones who have grown out of getting babied, but just need the attention. Classics will stay around as comfort. Classics remain where you go when you need a feel-good moment, or a warm, simple evening. We always stay there.
My house remains the gateway. My house is the editing studio after immediate filming of a terrible story, or the last place an old release will land before their release in to society. We’ve seen all the stories, wiped innumerable tears, and taught the diagnosed unteachable. My parents are recognized as heroes in the foster-parenting world. They’ll rescue anybody, keep the most troubled children, and do their best to fix the unfixable. We live as a myriad of stories, backgrounds, and lost siblings. We are the Blockbuster of misplaced children.