I shoot an envious glance towards this house every morning on the way to our foster girl’s school. The house has an elegant sign out front “Testimony Farm.” I can’t help but wonder about testimonies. The great thing about stories of calling or faith or redemption in public testimonies is that they have beginnings, middles and endings. Like this house everything appears tidy and finished. Of course it’s an illusion. Termites work, people die and houses crumble, but still . . . there is a longing for enduring testimonies that offer the assurance that one day we will be complete and all will be well with our souls.
Last night our foster daughter (M) and I went on our bi-weekly sibling visit. M’s sisters were adopted only recently but we all knew it was coming and on this particular visit the sisters saw fit to make M feel how lucky they were and, by contrast, how sad they were for her. Kids do this to each other. One sibling emphasized the word “MOM” every time she spoke with her foster/new mom before turning to M to ask her if she was all right because it looked as though she might cry. M refused to be goaded.
As we sat in a quiet McDonald’s (because where else is there to take three young girls on a dark Monday night in Upstate New York) the girls repeatedly brought up their impending trip to Disney. “Wouldn’t you like to come with us, M?” one asked knowing it was impossible and seemed sort of gleeful about it. M let it slide.
As the adults chatted about watercolor paintings and anniversaries the girls laughed and joked. They sang made up songs to amuse each other until the youngest tugged her new mother’s sleeve and pulled her aside. “M said something inappropriate.”
I was pulled aside then. It seemed that M had made up a song about throwing babies in the trash. “Okay,” I said, “M often has a less than funny sense of humor and it’s usually related to anvils falling on people’s heads and car wrecks.”
The little girl peeked from behind her new mother. “M said she wanted to throw our new foster baby in the trash,” she whispered.
I didn’t believe her. Yeah, throwing a fictional baby in the trash isn’t a fantastic place to go with your jokes, but M spoke quite fondly of the new foster baby in her sisters’ family. I went to M who sat watching the weather on the TV.
“Did you say you wanted to throw a baby in the trash?”
M said, “Yes. It was a joke in a song . . .” a look of panic flashed across her face as she glanced at her sister.
The sister’s new mom stepped in. “M, your sister says you wanted to put this baby in the trash . . .”
“No! She’s lying!”
The dinner ended abruptly, but as we walked to our cars the girls made sure to mention Disney one last time.
M stared after them as we pulled out of the parking lot and waved. They didn’t wave back. They didn’t see her.
I waited for M to say something. It came like a torrent. “Why do they get to go to Disney while we take care of stupid goats? I didn’t say I wanted to put a real baby in the trash and how come they look so pretty and I’m like trash? Everyone hates me at school and I try to be nice and they think I’m trash too. And my sisters hate my real mom and I love her even though she did bad things and why can’t you guys just adopt me already?” The talk went in long circles between sobs.
I said, “Well, M, I love you and don’t think you’re trash–it’s why I help you brush your hair in the morning.”
“Yeah, I know you love me, but no one else does!” More sobs. She settled down for a second. “But . . . when you get mad at me –when I do something–I think you might–you know–send me away and hate me–like trash.”
Trash was the word of the night.
We got home and M returned from her room after getting ready for bed. She was holding an mp3 player we bought her when she still lived at the group home. “I have this thing . . . and I’m afraid to tell you . . . but I recorded words I’m ashamed of and everyone’s gonna think I’m trash. The lady at the shelter said I should let out all my sexy thoughts–like what my mom did. I can’t get rid of the thoughts.”
“Wait, do you mean in your head or on the mp3 player?” I asked.
“Well, on the mp3 player which makes me think about it all.”
My husband sat reading about the CUBS. “Here, M, give me the player.” In about 2 seconds he figured out how to delete the offensive recordings. “All gone,” he said and tossed the thing back. ” Let’s just keep music on it from now on, okay?”
M nodded gratefully.
My husband of little words continued, “Oh, by the way. You do realize there’s no turning back. I spoke to your case worker and the lawyer. The adoption is a done deal–just waiting for the paperwork.”
M covered her face and went to her room with her dog eagerly at her heels. We listened as she goofed around with the dog before falling asleep.
Today was M’s last visit with the psychiatrist. “I don’t see any reason for M to come anymore now that she’s off the meds. I see a bright future for her. One that I never would have forecasted looking at her paperwork. I guess it was meant to be,” the doctor said. “Please let me know when the adoption goes through. M told me before you walked in that she loves you and your husband and that you love her so I’m done here.”
And there’s my testimony (for the moment).