Beloved was a living Jekyll and Hyde. When she was nice, she was really nice, and she lit up the room with just her smile. When she was not nice, boy, oh boy. Let’s just say things got ugly quickly.
Bless her heart. It was a terrible irony that her parents named her something that meant “Beloved” and then threw her away. It was horrible to see how her parents and society had messed up this precious soul. She was a self-mutilator, or so they said. I never actually saw her do anything more than scratch herself with a broken CD and threaten to do more. I was glad I did not get a full demonstration of the mutilation. I don’t *do* blood or bodily fluids.
Beloved was not in school. She was supposed to be working her GED, but it wasn’t going very well. Her tutors kept quitting because they couldn’t take the mood swings. When I got her in my home, the social workers and I decided it would be a good plan for her to volunteer at the home’s thrift shop. They thought it would help her to get out of herself a little. I thought it would help her to get out of my house a little. She volunteered there three days a week. I was lobbying for five days a week, but I never won the popular vote.
One Friday, I decided that Beloved would go to work. She had overstayed her welcome, and I desperately needed a break. I told her to get ready and that we were going to take her to work. My family was in town for a rare moment, and I was really excited about the idea of being just the four of us for a little while. Beloved pouted around the house and said she didn’t want to go. She said that she should not have to work on Friday as it was part of the weekend. I reminded her that the social worker thought it would be good and that she didn’t have a choice. I also reminded her that the social worker was at work because Friday was, indeed, a work day. She said she was special and shouldn’t have to work. Finally, after dragging her feet for over an hour, she was ready. We all loaded up in the huge bus that I got to drive. I was driving, because, as usual, Mr. E was not actually allowed to participate in “our” job.
Beloved refused to buckle her seatbelt. I told her to put it on, and she said no. I told her again, politely, but more forcefully, and again she said no. Then, through gritted teeth I said, “I. Said. Buckle. Up. Now.” She said, “And. I. Said. No.” After that, the memory is just a flash. I was driving but still on the children’s home property when Beloved refused to buckle up. I slammed on my brakes hard. It was hard enough that Beloved flew out of the seat and into the floor board. I threw it in reverse and backed all the way back to the house. Then, I made the decree of, “Everyone, get out of the car NOW!” and everyone obeyed, including Mr. E.
Beloved and I marched over to the children’s home office to have a word with the social worker. You see, I had no power to actually DO anything. My only action was to consult the social workers and let them handle it. In this case, Beloved won and did not have to go to work that day. I also won because she spent the day in the office, and I got a break.
Later that evening, Beloved hugged me and said, “Ms. Alison. I thought you were going to kill me! Next time you say, ‘Buckle up,’ I’m gonna buckle up!” Chalk one up for the mother.
One thing I learned about myself through this whole process was that I am one tough cookie. In case you ever doubted that, just know that it is true. I thought I would probably shrink away when threatened. However, I found that my response was just the opposite. When the large framed, tall Beloved moved toward me in a menacing manner, my response was always to puff up my chest and move at her instead of away. One time, Mr. Everything actually had to step between us because he was afraid I would hurt her. That was probably smart on his part.
One night, things had gotten ugly. Beloved was throwing a hissy fit about something, and I had had enough. She was threatening to run away, and I told her to go for it. I also reminded her that if she stepped foot off the property, she was out of the foster care program. She said she was still leaving, and I said, “Bon voyage.” She grabbed a few things and headed out the door. She stood on the porch, because, as was common knowledge, Beloved was terrified of the dark. I knew she wouldn’t go anywhere, but I had to get her back inside. Then, I did something that, to this day, I find funny but at the same time, I am not proud of. I turned off the porch light. It’s horrible that I did that, because this child was really, really scared of the dark. But you know what? It worked, and she came slamming back into the house. I won’t print the words she said to me, but hey, she came back in. She never threatened to run away again.
Beloved had her good moments. She had funny phrases like, “The Po-po is after me.” We still say that in our house if a cop is nearby. She also called pickles, “Pinkles,” and she loved her pinkles. I have some good memories of her and grew to love her as much as I could in a short amount of time. I wonder where she is and how she is doing. I can still see her infectious smile in my mind, and I can hear her funny laugh. She was a joy, at times.
When I got Beloved in my house, I picked her up from the mental hospital. I had a sneaking suspicion at that point that I was probably not properly trained to handle this job. Sadly, the way she left my house was that Beloved went back to the mental hospital, and I had to drive her there in my big white bus. I never saw her again after that night.
Come back tomorrow and I’ll tell you about Essie. You’ll want to brew a pot of tea and pull up a chair for that one. Do I have tales to tell… Beloved was normal compared to the other one. You’ll see what I mean. -Al