2003 - 1
Today was the day that my case worker was coming to pick me up. Nancy and Phillip, my foster parents, said so, and so did my case worker when I called her.
“Everyone say goodbye to Tia,” Nancy told her daughters, Priscilla, Sutton, and Mahaylee before they got on the bus to go to school. “She won’t be here when you get back.”
“Why is she leaving?” Mahaylee asked, coming over to give me a hug. I hugged her back even though she wasn’t always very nice.
“Because she’s crazy,” Priscilla said, and Nancy shot her a look. “Tia is leaving because she has needs that Dad and I can’t address.”
Mahaylee let me go and walked back over to the front door, where her sisters had turned their attention to the window, looking for their bus. I wished that I was looking for my bus to go to school, just not here. Not in Arcadia.
After their bus came and Nancy waved at them as they ran down the driveway, she came back inside and looked at me. “Let’s get you packed.”
We headed to the room that I shared with Mahaylee, which was big, but pink. I had tried to change the walls, using blue and green markers, but Nancy and Phillip had not been happy. Even though they scrubbed and scrubbed, the blue was still on the wall by my bed a little bit. I ran over, jumped onto my bed, and touched the blue. Blue for boy.
“Tia, it’s not time to play. We need to pack your things.” Nancy said, pulling my school backpack out of my closet.
“I’m not playing,” I said, jumping off of my bed and walking over to her.
“Where is your lifebook?”
“You can’t see it,” I said, crossing my arms.
Nancy sighed. “I’m not going to look at it, I just want to put it in your bag so you can take it to your next placement.”
I went back over to my bed and stuck my head under it. I spotted my lifebook, a green binder full of pictures and other things, in the back corner and pulled it out. Nancy reached for it, but I dodged her outstretched hand and went over to my backpack and put it in myself.
“We can put your clothes in a trash bag, but let’s put your toys in here, okay?” Nancy said. I nodded and went to my bed, where Batman rested against my pillow. Batman was a superhero, which were my favorite things. Trucks were my second favorite things, but I didn’t have any at home, just ones I borrowed at school. Nancy said I didn’t need trucks because I had dolls that Mahaylee shared with me, old Halloween costumes, Lincoln Logs from Santa, and other toys that stayed in the playroom.
“I’ll get my Lincoln Logs,” I said after Batman was safe in the bag.
“Tia,” Nancy said, “I think it’s best if you leave those here. They’re all spread out in the playroom so it will take a long time for us to gather them, and they might not all fit in your backpack.”
“We can put them in the trash bag,” I said.
Nancy grimaced. “Maybe if we have time.”
While Nancy went to get a trash bag for my clothes, I pulled my Power Ranger costume from last Halloween and my Batman mask from last last Halloween out from under my bed. I smiled and put my Power Ranger mask on. I shoved my Batman mask and my white Power Ranger suit into my backpack, then grabbed the sheet off my bed and tied it around my neck. I stuck out my fist and yelled, “To infinity and beyond!” before running down the hall. At the stairs, I ran until I got to the fifth step, then I jumped. My record was six, but I fell when I did that, and superheroes didn’t fall.
When I was a hero, my name was Cameron, and I was an awesome boy. If Nancy and Phillip let me, I would have been a superhero all the time, but they said sometimes I had to be Tia, my alter ego, even though she was my least favorite person to be.
“Tia,” Nancy yelled from the kitchen when my feet thumped onto the hardwood floor. “It’s not play time!”
I ran into the living room, and then she came out of nowhere and grabbed the end of my cape. It tightened around my neck and I cried out. Nancy picked me up under my armpits and carried me to the stairs. “How many times Tia? How many? Get upstairs. I’ll be there in one second to help you pack your clothes.”
I stomped up the stairs, fighting tears. If I couldn’t even pretend to be a boy, I was going to die.
When my case worker showed up, I felt like doing a worksheet for my lifebook, but she said that it would have to wait until I got to my new house, because she didn’t have anything to draw or write with in her car.
“Am I going to live with Mary?” I asked, remembering the family I had met at McDonald’s last weekend. They had bought me food and ice cream, so I knew they were nice.
“Yes,” Danielle, my case worker, said. “We agreed that you would be a good fit for their family.”
“Not like Nancy and Phillip?”
Danielle looked at me in the rearview mirror. “You liked them for awhile, remember? But people change. It’s okay, Tia. Your new family will be a lot of fun.”
“Will I have brothers?”
Danielle smiled. “You will have a lot of siblings, just like you wanted.”
I nodded and looked out the window. I had wanted a brother for as long as I could remember.
It was a long drive to Mary’s house, so I took out my lifebook. My first foster mom, Cynthia, started it for me when I was a baby. On the front, she drew a purple butterfly, which was okay because butterflies are nice. I flipped past the note at the beginning and looked at the pictures from when I was a baby living in La Crosse with my real parents. I had three pictures with my dad but only one with my mom, because Danielle told me that my mom was sick, and that was why I had to leave their house. My first foster mom, Cynthia, wrote that my parents had a hard time taking care of me because my mom was so sick.
Since I couldn’t remember living with my mom and dad, my first foster home was my favorite. I liked looking at the picture of the house with the tree, which I remembered sitting under and playing with dump trucks. There were even pictures of me playing with my friend Cameron and my cousin Arlo when we were really little. I had trouble remembering some of the people in the pictures, but Danielle said that it happened to everyone, so it was okay.
On one page, an All About Me! page, my old foster mom Cynthia even circled that I was a boy because I told her I was. I knew that if I did an All About Me! page with Nancy, she would make me circle “girl,” which was why I always did my lifebook alone now, except for the pictures.
Suddenly, I wanted to rip out the pictures from Nancy and Phillip, but as soon as I started on one page, Danielle said, “Tia, what are you doing?”
“Nothing,” I said, slamming my lifebook shut. I stared out the window until we pulled into a driveway. “Is this Mary’s house?”
“Sure is,” Danielle said. She turned off the car and got out. I waited for her to come around and open my door before I got out. I put on my backpack, and she carried my trash bag.
“Hello, hello,” a familiar voice said. I looked up to see Mary coming towards me with a big smile. I looked past her at the house, and my jaw dropped.
“Do you like it?” Mary asked, bending her knees so that her face was closer to mine.
“It’s so big that I couldn’t imagine it,” I said.
Mary laughed and ushered me inside so she could show me around. Danielle followed us and I smiled at her. She smiled back.
Mary, John Paul, and their children Elizabeth, Zion, and Isaac lived downstairs. Upstairs, there were four rooms for foster children and adopted children. On the left were the older boys’ and the little boys’ rooms, and on the right were the older girls’ and little girls’ rooms. I was put in the little girls’ room with four other girls named Mia, Katy, Alyssia, and Greta. As soon as I met them and sat on my new bed for the first time, Danielle said goodbye to me and left. She hardly ever stayed anywhere with me.
“Where does Danielle sleep?” I asked Mary.
“At her own house,” Mary said, smiling. “Do you like your bed?”
I patted the blankets, which were purple. Purple was my fourth favorite color, after green, blue, and red. “I like it.”
Even though Mary wanted to put my clothes into my new drawer, the other kids, even the boys, came into my new room and asked for lunch. Mary said putting my clothes away could wait, so we all went downstairs.
Being with so many people was crazy. I bumped into so many people that it was like living at school with a whole class, like at school, except not everyone was six like me. At lunch, I sat with all the little kids and we talked about toys and other fun things. I really liked the other boys, and I kept smiling because I finally had brothers.
After lunch, I was full and sleepy, so while the other kids did something else, Mary let me go upstairs and take a nap. When I woke up, I pulled out my lifebook.
When I had left my first foster home, Cynthia had written notes about why I had to leave and where I was going. Since Nancy hadn’t done it, I worked on it. I wrote that I left Nancy and Phillip’s house because they were mad at me for being a boy and for trying to run away when they yelled at me. I knew they were also mad at me for trying to pee in the toilet the way Phillip does, but I didn’t write it because thinking about it made me feel confused and sad and angry. It took me a long time to figure out how I felt about the standing-and-peeing when I got in trouble, but I finally did because Nancy said that it was important to figure out how everything makes me feel so that I never broke things again like the time with the vase. And the bowl of soup. And the Barbie dolls.
After I wrote about Nancy and Phillip, I wrote about meeting Mary at McDonald’s and how she had a big house and I finally had brothers. At the bottom, I put the date, which I knew was September third because I always asked what day it was in the morning just in case I wanted to do a worksheet.
I shoved my lifebook under my bed and went downstairs. For the rest of the day, I played, ate dinner, and took a bath with Greta. We splashed all over, which made John Paul mad. He yelled and Greta cried, but I kept my brave face on, like when I played Batman and I had to beat the bad guys.
I fell asleep easily at bedtime, but it was hard to stay asleep because Katy had a lot of bad dreams and woke up screaming or crying a lot. Someone always got up to turn the lights on, and sometimes Mary came to comfort her, but mostly Alyssia, Greta, and Mia gave her hugs and told her she was safe. I curled up with my head under my blankets and cried.