I was an only child growing up and although we were a licenced foster home, we usually only got calls about hard to place children. Added on top of that, the house rule was that we never took in a child that was older than me. So, we didn’t have many children come along that fit the specifications.
When I was nine years old, the phone rang late one evening. It was a pretty summer day, warm and sunny. SRS had an emergency with a 20 month old baby girl. She had been in state custody before, and stayed with another family, but that family wasn’t available for the weekend. They wanted to know if we could come pick her up, right away.
I remember my anticipation as we drove the infernally long half-hour drive to the hospital. I was bouncing up and down, next to the empty car seat, humming my heart out.
I wanted a baby sister more than anything in the whole world, and although my parents had explained that our visitor would only be staying for a few days, my childlike hope was that she could stay forever.
The first time I set eyes on little Erin, my heart turned to goo. I loved her instantly. The most striking thing about her was her big blue eyes. You could get lost in ocean eyes like that.
All the way home, I sang to her and played patty-cake and smoothed her soft light brown hair.
She was the sweetest and least fussy baby that I have ever seen, even to this day. However, the blue bruise in the shape of a hand on her pale little forehead and the way she cowered whenever she heard a man’s voice, told a sad tale.
I wanted to keep her- I was very possessive of her. She was MY baby. I devoted all of my attention to her, helping my mother dress and feed her, amusing her with toys and games…
My favorite cat had kittens several weeks before, and one thing she loved was cuddling their fluffy little bodies. She was so gentle with them, even though she wasn’t old enough to know. The big grin that would spread across her face when one licked her nose, was better to me than the jelly beans in my Easter basket.
Then, it happened. Less than a week after she arrived we received another phone call. The voice on the other end coldly told us that we had 30 minutes to have her things packed and to say goodbye.
The original family that had her the first time she was taken into custody was back, and they wanted her right away.
I think that was the hardest goodbye I ever had to say.
Ingrained in my mind is a picture. Erin, being handed to a social worker and buckled into a car seat in a minivan. Me, scuffing my bare toes in the dirt, tears streaming down my face as I told the people taking her that she was the best baby ever. I sent a little dress that had been mine as a baby with her and wondered if I’d ever see her again.
I never did.
For years, whenever I saw a little girl running about, I would wonder: is she the right age? Could it be? And if our eyes met, I would search for a spark of recognition… and then look away, feeling foolish for hoping.
Erin would be about fifteen years old now. I hope she is well. I pray that she has parents that love her, friends to giggle with, and maybe… a big sister to watch out for her.