My most vivid childhood memory is a red blouse with buttons all down the back and on the sleeves. I remember my little sausage of a finger poking them wondering if buttons and polka dots were different things. I remember a spoon in my mouth with God knows what on it and as soon as I’d socked it dry I attempted to fashion a weapon out of it combined with a stray hair tie. This was the days of MP3 players and teddies when kids didn’t roam the sidewalk with headphones surgically attached and chargers like veins. It must have been the early nineties with whoever was supposed to be taken care of me at the time.
My most recent memory is a wet spot from where I tried to get the swipe of eyeliner off my pillow and failed.
I explained all this on my first visit to the therapist. My new foster parents wanted me to go and I wanted to stay in a place where no one mistreated or abused me yet, so I parked myself on the couch and started talking. He asked if I read many plays, but I barely managed chapter books, so I said no. He took this all in stride and completely redirected, handing me a sketch pad instead and asked me to draw what was in my brain every day. It needed to look menacing and wound up resembling a rubber duck, but he was more pleased with it. So thrilled, in fact, that he bestowed a piece of apple upon me as a reward for this feat.
Our next conversation detailed a murky lake no one had ever jumped into before: one part memorable experience and one part unforgettable dream. My foster father at the time was laying in bed and I sat on the floor by his gnarled feet wearing only a pair of socks, deck of cards in hand and dignity in the other. My therapist had that one in the bag. “Right in my wheelhouse,” he declared.
He sent me out ready to choke anyone who asked about me with a seat belt. Luckily, the car ride went rapidly by in silence. When I got home, there was a familiar face poised at the dining table. She was dressed up as a big yellow blob, complete with a shawl that looked like it belonged on the tables at a wedding. I knew what it was really used for though- muffling sounds that might come across as unpleasant. She was in charge of running my orphanage; she’d taken over for the man who died in 1941.
“It’s time for your home-visit, sweetness,” she announced when she saw the dread on my face. But she was in for the shock I’d gotten when she toured my new digs.
“You know,” she stated under her breath like whisperers at a funeral. “Most American families have washing machines nowadays.”
“Ours is broken,” my foster parents explained together. “We’re waiting on a new one.”
“It’ll be here in an hour,” I lied. I know it’s wrong to fib, but my real parents were broken and I’d just gotten a new family. She’d have no reason to mess it up for me if I had any say in my life this time. Before long, she was on her way out.
“You think you’ll be playing house here for long? Well, you’ve got another thing coming, my dear, because there are reasons that ‘Congrats You Just Got Adopted’ balloons don’t exist,” she growled through the door. And she wasn’t wrong: no one makes adoption balloons, or at least I didn’t remember ever seeing one.
No red balloons with buttons floating for me.
Thank you for reading this short story about a lonely orphan’s journey down memory lane much later in life. I hope you’ve enjoyed it and, if so, you’ll like these as well:
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