I cringe as the shrill noise strikes my eardrums, like the clashing of cymbals or fingernails on chalkboard. The serenity and first blush of morning is punctured, like a needle to a balloon, as the sharp, high-pitch staccatos ricochet throughout the house.
The little bitty girl in the tip-top loft bed is making happy sounds, but not the normal soft musical rousing. Her voice careens down the hallway, like a megaphone, reverberating off walls, and shaking the foundation.
After twenty minutes of the piercing noise, I consider it quite plausible a horse or a flock of seagulls has moved in during the dark hours of slumber. Whatever the creature, it is creating a bizarre high treble whistling or whinnying.
With a steady flow of caffeine coursing through my veins, I journey the honey stained floors to solve the mystery. Flipping the switch on the wall, a picture illuminates, from my vantage point, of a puppy and a frizzy, raven head.
The woolly, stuffed poodle dances the rim of the pine bed rail. Four-year old toes peek below the rail, and wiggle the bright snowman fleece pajamas.
“No, it’s a dolphin!,” she declares.
“Oh your doggie is a dolphin.” (Of course).
“Yes!,” she giggles, revealing her silly wide-toothed grin. The puppy bounces with the ceaseless, ear-splitting sound of a dolphin.
“Come on sweetie, let’s get up and go potty,” my arms stretch high to help her down. It is the time for rush. Chaos. Carpool.
She stops her play, dark brown eyes lock with mine, “I had a dream last night that all my mommies died.”
The tempo of the morning immediately shifts. For this moment.
“Really? What happened sweetie?”
“The mama with the…
She squints her eyes, and wrinkles her forehead as she thinks hard. If I listen closely between pink and cream toile curtains and the pine bed, I can probably hear clattering and rumbling of her brain’s childlike attempt to reach into the recesses of fading memories.
The name finally comes to her, “The mama with the B name…she died.”
Quietly, I say, “Oh, you’re talking about your birth mom?”
Somber dark eyes peer over the rail searching for answers.
“Sweetie, it was just a dream. She’s okay, she’s not really hurt.”
“But I dreamed she was killed by a man with poison and a knife,” she replies while making the motions of stabbing her chest.
I suck in air. Deep.
She is right. This dream, her life, must feel like a death in so many ways. For the first time in three years, she hasn’t seen her birth mama for the usual two hours, twice a month– it’s been over six months since she’s seen her, and it’s unlikely to happen again.
I shift my feet and search for words, “She’s not really dead sweetie.”
Pensive, she gazes over my shoulder, her mind turning. Her face scrunches and I know she’s devising a plan. I sense it stirring in the air of the room, like the heater that’s circulating warmth, there’s something happening in the space between us. Her four-year old mind is circulating, solving a problem, as if picking the lock of her past.
Memories have been slipping away like the unstrung beads of her princess pearls, beads bouncing across the floor. Her life has been upended, unstrung, and she will likely walk this ground of questions for a lifetime– attempting to fit beads back onto the string and make sense of her world, her story.
Eyes bright, she has the answer. “I know! How about you take me to visit her?”
“I’m sorry, sweetie, I can’t do that. I wish I could.”
“We just can’t, sweetie.”
“Well, people used to take me to see her,” she remembers transport workers who used to drive her to visits.
“Yes they did. You had fun with her didn’t you?”
“Yes,” she answers.
“I’m sorry you can’t do that anymore honey. How does that make you feel?”
Tiny hands twist in her lap, the earlier playfulness gone from the room. All is quiet a second.
Her gaze casts down at her hands, twisting, “It makes me feel sad.”
“I know, it makes me sad too. I’m so sorry. She loves you so much.”
I hold the bitty girl tight and squeeze, wishing I could squeeze the grief away for her. Just like the fleeting thoughts of a child, she hops down chattering about breakfast and princesses. The conversation gone for now.
We repeat this on some level almost daily, as memories surface and she has questions. It used to undo me, send me to my bedroom weeping; however, people who know much more than I do, tell me this is normal and healthy. This is her way of processing her story and trying to fit it all together, the jumbled mess that it is.
Isn’t that all of our stories, though, on some level? A mixed-up, messy picture that only the Father can redeem?
My heart is still sore from the brokenness of her story, but I also know beauty comes through pain– the walking through, the rescue, the deliverance. I can only walk beside her, love, and pray, as I do with all my children.
With all my kids, it is messy and imperfect and raw. Who knows how to parent? For real? I sure as heck don’t know what I’m doing. But, I am grateful for the perfect Father who does.
I am confident He is doing a great work in all our hearts. I am despairing less over Little Bitty’s story, and embracing more of my own story along the way, as my eyes focus on the face of the only Rescuer. The One who restrings the broken pieces of our lives.
Melanie and her husband, Kevin, have three biological children and live in Birmingham, Alabama. They have been foster parents for two years. More of their story and journey can be followed at Melanie’s blog Running to the Father.