Child Of My Heart, Audrey's Story (Volume One)
"Neither Bone Of My Bone....."
On a brisk, January evening, she entered my life, a tiny, little thing with hair of corn silk, still reeling from a failed adoption.
"Neither bone of my bone,
Nor flesh of my flesh,
But mine, just the same.
You did not grow beneath my heart,
Instead, you grew within it."
At the age of six, living in New York, she was the third of six children born to a woman who had allowed drugs and alcohol to rule her life. One day, during her first year of school, authorities came to her school and took her away. She never saw her mother or siblings again.
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My Mommie's Betrayal
The Early Years
Audrey's memories of her first six years were clouded at best. She remembered living in motels with her mother, her older sister, and a baby brother. The child spent her days working as a decoy while her mother stole merchandise from stores and her nights traveling from bar to bar with her mother, selling the stolen items.
After hours, she would sneak into the motel lobbies with Ramon Noodles and use the coffee maker to boil her noodles. She was ingenious in finding ways to take care of herself at such a young age. But there were memories, too, of her mother making spaghetti and how she would always insist that the sauce be washed off the noodles and replaced with butter before she would eat them.
She remembered being afraid of her mother when she was using drugs because of the way she looked and the drug induced rages.
Her only memory of her natural father, whom she never knew, was at about two and a half or three years old. She remembered a building and being left in the car while her mother went inside. When she returned, she had a man with a long blond ponytail with her. Her mother told him she wanted him to see his daughter. He walked over to the car, peering in at her, and then walked away and back into the building. They drove away and she never saw him again.
The last memory of her mother was at their home where the police were trying to get into the room to arrest the woman for stealing. The child, though only six years old, blamed herself for many years after this incident because she had suggested that her mother break a window and escape. There was an officer waiting for her on the other side. They took her to jail and the little girl was, once again, left in the hands of her mother's current boyfriend until she was taken from school that memorable day.
My Adoptive Mommie's Rejection
Where do I belong?
Placement for this little girl was difficult because, in her own anguish, she was angry and hurtful to other children. Once a home was found, she was to remain with them as their foster child for the next three years. At that time, making plans to move to Florida, they decided to adopt this little girl, who was so near the same age as their own child.
She was never to feel as though she belonged to this family. They made it quite obvious by always placing her second to their own child. Their family night outings to restaurants usually excluded her as she was left locked in her room until they returned. She had few clothes and all her toys were used, after being discarded by the older child. All of her past possessions were thrown away and she was never allowed to talk of her natural mother or siblings again.
This was just the beginning of her abuse. On the flight to Florida, her adoptive father began introducing things to her that made her uncomfortable. As time passed, his inappropriate behavior continued, making her life unbearable.
She went to her adoptive mother time and time again, trying to tell her of her plight, simply to be locked in her room again and accused of lying. The child was all alone to deal with her abuse, both physical and emotional, from the age of nine until a warm night in August of 1999, just a few months after her eleventh birthday.
Her adoptive father was drinking and had entered her room twice already when the doorbell rang. We will never know who finally called and asked for help for this child but a representative from the Department of Children and Families was on the other side of the door. They removed her from the home that night.
The caseworker took her to a state owned Girls' Ranch, expecting the case to be pending. But when they went back to investigate the family, the family had fled with their other child to New York, leaving their adopted daughter behind, deserting her. And she was once again totally alone in the world.
by Eugenia S. Hunt
Behind the eyes, a story,
Held fast by shreds of light,
Revealing only fragments
Of the person within sight.
So many tears have passed
Beneath the eyes, reflecting still,
Memories much too harsh today
To give the mind free will.
The child, once seeing wonder
In every shedding leaf,
Views only pain depicted
In years of their own grief.
To get a glimpse, from within,
Of whom this child could be,
Would reach the depths of mind and soul,
And bring us to our knees.
A Life Changing Decision
An Answered Prayer
During the summer of 1999, my husband took a job on Ascension Island which took him away a large part of the year. We only had one of our four children still at home and he was 19, working, going to school, and beginning his own life.
That June and July, I read cover to cover, eighteen full sized novels in six weeks and I am really not a reader. I was bored with my life and needed something worthwhile to fill it. As I sat one night alone, I began to pray. He knew already what I needed but I just didn't know where to look to find it. I asked for His help.
The next afternoon, my neighbor brought over a brochure from the Department of Children and Families for me to read. It was in regards to the Guardian Ad Litem program and she needed me as a character reference. A GAL for the court is there to speak for the foster child under their charge. They act as the child's voice in the court room.
As I read the paperwork, I also found information on their foster care program, both with the state and with the Children's Home Society. It was at this moment that I realized where my life would be taking me next. I got up right then and called the Children's Home Society and we began nine weeks of classes to prepare us for what we were about to undertake, or so we thought. We would soon realize you cannot really prepare yourself for the heart wrenching life of foster parents.
Receiving a call from our Foster Care Supervisor on January 21, 2000, I traveled the short distance to a nearby Girls' Ranch to take a possible new ward out for dinner so that we could get to know each other.
And this is where our story begins.
Separation And Loss
Placed In My Path
As I walked into the office, I saw a little, blond haired child of eleven whose appearance was closer to eight or nine. She was so very tiny and frail. Her long hair surrounded the biggest, saddest, pale green eyes I had ever seen. She wore a faded little shirt with a small daisy on the front and the word 'Friends' embroidered over it. For warmth, she also wore a tattered, flannel shirt coupled with a pair of worn out jeans and, as I was to find later, a pair of shoes two sizes too small. As we walked across the parking lot and got into my car, I began to feel an intense urge growing inside me to protect this lonely, little girl.
It was obvious, she was frightened as we drove to a nearby restaurant. She was very quiet so I began to talk to her, asking questions about school and her life at the Girls' Ranch, to help break the ice between us. We reached the little restaurant, went inside and ordered grilled cheese sandwiches and French fries. By the time the food arrived, she had begun to talk. The words simply began to fall out of her faster and faster, as though they were overflowing swollen banks that could hold them no longer.
Before I knew it, we had been sitting there for two hours. I told her it was time for us to return to the ranch. She began to beg to come home with me and spend the night. I placed a call to my supervisor and she agreed that it would be okay.
Together, we drove the short distance back to the ranch and I went in with her. We entered a small room with four beds, one which was just a mattress on the floor. She walked over to the mattress and lifted it, pulling out her belongings and began packing them into a black trash bag. I ask her why she slept with her mattress on the floor and her things under it. She answered that this was the only way to keep them from being stolen while she slept. That was one of my first lessons in understanding.
Reaching my home soon after, she began preparing for bed and ask if I would come in and talk to her until she fell asleep. By this time, it was around 11:00. She began to talk, asking first about my family, and then she pulled out a track she had received from a church group who had visited the ranch and ask me to explain salvation, which I did. She had memorized the prayer on the back from reading it over and over during her months at the ranch.
After that, she began to talk about her natural mother, moving on to her life in her adoptive home. The words were flowing out of her in rapid succession as a waterfall tumbles over the rocky slope of a mountainside.
At one point, she pulled out a tiny photo of a little, dark haired girl. As she told me the child was her half sister, huge tears filled her eyes. This tiny photo was the only thing she had been able to retrieve from the trash the night her belongings had been thrown away. It was her most prized possession. By 4:30 in the morning, she had finally succumbed to sleep, exhausted.
With all she had told me, I slept very little that night. It was all racing through my head and I was amazed that a child could endure so much and still have any faith left in adults whatsoever. I wondered how in the world I would ever reach this child that God seemed to be directly placing in my path and into my life. Little did I know then just how serious He was.
The Edge Of A Whirlwind Of Emotion
Life With Audrey
The first days with Audrey were spent just getting to know each other. She was enrolled in a nearby Elementary School and began making friends quickly. However, she and her teacher were having difficulty communicating from the beginning. I found Audrey to have the inability to respect authority in everyone with exception of her mother figure, which at the moment, was me. This placed me in the path of any and all oncoming conflict as the designated referee. I realized, to teach her the respect of authority, I had to begin from the beginning, by respecting her. Lessons are learned best by example.
In time, I realized her respect for my authority was not the same as I respected my parents. She was led by me more as her equal, not as a parent, and she allowed me to lead because she chose to. She didn't have an understanding of the difference between the parent and the child and, therefore, did not give my authority respect simply because I was the acting parent, as my own children had. So, whenever she disagreed, she was of the opinion that it was okay to make her own choices, placing my opinion in some imagined category of unimportant.
As an example, my friend and I took her shopping one afternoon to a very large mall near our home. We were in search of the 'perfect pair of sneakers' to replace the ones which were too small. She became frustrated almost immediately because she couldn't find a replacement pair to her liking and began to act out badly. When I suggested she calm down or we would have to go, she simply walked away. We searched for her but after fifteen minutes, I called security and my supervisor. It had to be reported. As we waited for security to join us, some forty-five minutes after she had left us, Audrey walked up as though nothing had happened. She simply announced she had found the perfect sneakers. It did not occur to her that she should have stayed with us, or told me where she was going, or to even consider that we were worried out of our minds! She was as nonchalant as though she had been on the playground while I watched from the sidelines. Authority did not tell her what she wanted to hear so authority was dismissed. When she saw my face, the shock she felt from my reaction was apparent. She had no idea she had done anything wrong.
Audrey had an even smaller respect for men. During that first month, a friend of mine asked my assistance in cleaning up a room at her church for use as a children's choir room. There was painting to be done and Audrey offered to help. She worked very hard and quickly won over both my friend and her husband. As we painted, the adults were talking and eventually Audrey was drawn into the conversation. At one point, she turned to my friend and said, "Why do men always hurt you?" It broke my friend's heart to think that a child of eleven had already placed men and pain in the same category. However, it explained her lack of respect. She had not received respect from men, only suffering.
In Audrey's short life, she had received rejection from two mothers and been hurt by the only father she had ever known. We really had a long road ahead and our training for such a feat was slim and none.
A Hurdle Of Vast Importance
The Door Opens And Her Heart Peeps Out
The first months were riddled with various scenes of happiness, tears and acting out that were to be expected by a child trying to handle the weight of a world that would topple most adults. And I saw such anger behind those beautiful eyes, anger that was standing in the way of acceptance of love and the ability to give love in return. I wrestled with several ideas of approach, trying to find a way to get behind those eyes and show her that it would be okay to love again. I so wanted her to know that there were people worthy of her love and she was worthy of being loved.
One night, I watched a program that approached this same problem in children. It spoke of their need to express their anger but life's circumstances had suppressed it instead. The pain was so great that they didn't know what to do with the strong feelings their young emotions were inept in handling so, rather than allowing the emotions to manifest themselves, the emotions were shut down and hidden from those who hurt them. When this was done often enough, it affected their ability to connect with anyone. They did not feel they had the right to be angry because in some way it was their fault.
One evening, just after her twelfth birthday, she got angry during a discussion with me. I watched the anger flare and then die in her eyes. She closed that little door to me that I always saw in wait there. I followed her to her room, sitting on the end of her bed beside her. She sat, looking into the mirror, with a blank stare. I lifted her into my lap, wrapping my arms around her, securing her arms as I did so. I then began to tell her that I loved her and she had the right to be angry. But she did not have the right to be angry at me at that moment because I hadn't done anything to warrant it. I told her it was okay now, right now, to get mad at everyone who had ever hurt her. And I told her to let it all out, making room for me, because I wasn't going anywhere and she needed to let me love her.
As we sat there together, she began to fight to pull my arms away. She hit and pinched them but I held fast and kept talking. She was so angry at some points she almost growled at me and this continued for almost an hour. Finally, she stopped, relaxed against my chest and began to cuddle into my arms. We sat there together, facing the mirror, watching each other for sometime before a big grin appeared on her face. When I tucked her into bed a few minutes later, she hugged me for the first time. We had both won an enormous battle that night and her little heart was peeping out at me, perplexed and curious.
Part One Of Audrey's Story Is Just The Beginning
VThere Is So Much More To Tell
I truly believe God led this little girl to me. Though she is not mine genetically, she has grown to become my child through experience, sacrifice, hard work and more love than I could have imagined. We have shared a lifetime in ten short years and now we are sharing in the telling of her story. She has read and approved every line which hasn't been easy but she wants her story told. As the story unfolds, I hope you, too, will fall in love with her, as I have. She deserves our understanding, our love and our admiration. This lens is just the beginning!
PLEASE CONTINUE TO READ:
http://momtothezoo.hubpages.com/hub/audreys-story-5 (Volume Five)
And Hear About Her Nieces And Nephews
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This book is a collection of Muses and Poetry I originally wrote for my children. However, my friends and extended family have enjoyed sharing my thoughts. I hope you will find pleasure within its pages as well.
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Who Is Mom To The Zoo?
Born in the small town of Pendleton, South Carolina, in 1950, I was the oldest of two, five years my sister's senior. It was a wonderful place to grow up where the entire town raised its children. I was always surrounded by people who loved and looked out for me. I graduated from High School with the same people who were in my kindergarten class. At 58, my childhood friends are still my friends. I feel so fortunate to have known such a childhood.
After college, I worked at Clemson University until May 1972. At that time, I married and lived in Glyfada, 22 miles from Athens, Greece for two years...via USAF. We then moved to North Dakota for another two years before returning to South Carolina.
We divorced after 16 years and two children. I married my best friend two years later and moved to Florida in 1988 and together we have raised my husband's son and daughter and my son and daughter...one federal officer, one pastor's wife, one sixth grade school teacher, and the other, after working for Florida Power and Light since age 19, is now with AT&T. In 1996, I adopted my stepdaughter. We are blessed with four grandsons and one granddaughter.
In 1999, we became foster parents with the Children's Home Society and had a number of children under our roof in the next 5 years. In 2001, we adopted a 13 year old girl, whom we first met at the age of 11, and is now 22. I also have spent more time in a courtroom than I care to think about, fighting for the rights of the children in our care. In 2004, I turned in my license so that I could be a full time Mom to our special needs daughter and keep our infant granddaughter five days a week while her mother was teaching.
Bill, my husband, is a retired USAF Air Traffic Controller. He is now working out of the country, on Ascension Island, with Computer Science Raytheon, as their chief controller, contracted out of Patrick AFB, Florida. This enables him to continue to do the job he loves, air traffic, and aid the military. He flies in and out on furlough and I handle things here at home. I jokingly call myself a Single Married Woman.
Actually, I am a retired Accountant/Credit Manager, now a housewife, where I enjoy writing, singing, piano, and sewing. I have had numerous poems and short stories published and have sung in churches and for church organizations for years, as well as weddings, a couple of variety shows, and even at my daughter's, and later my son's, weddings, one of the hardest things I have EVER done. We are members of a Baptist church where I am a soloist and sing in the choir. I am also a member of the Women's Bible Study Group and work on the Mission's Committee.
And, last but not least, we have two singing dogs. Raven is a thirteen year old Skipperkee/Chow with bucked teeth and attitude and Whisper, our nine pound poodle, who thinks himself a Doberman.
I have been Mom To The Zoo since the morning after our wedding. My friend, Lee, who was staying with our four children and two dogs answered the phone from a sound sleep, "Hunt Zoo, Zookeeper Speaking."
My life has involved many changes and avenues that I would never have dreamed of and has given me challenges that I never thought I was equal to. But, I have found that God has a plan and, if you follow His lead, you can handle anything he puts in your hands. However, you have to first learn to listen to Him. No matter what we want from life, it must come in His time. He has given my husband and me more than we could have began to imagine back in high school and we have found that what we thought was so important for our futures back then was nothing to what we have done so far. At 59, I have learned from our foster children, to look forward to the future and the next challenge with enthusiasm and excitement. If they can trust and love us after what the world has dealt them, we can surely tackle whatever lies ahead with ease. Life is a series of learning experiences and I continue to find life to be both a challenge and a joy which grows with each passing year. I learn more and more about myself with each passing day!