I must admit, the few days that we stayed at my aunts were a breath of fresh air, literally. She had a beautiful home that she shared with her husband and two kids. School had not begun yet, so one of my cousins would babysit us while her parents were at work. She was a pretty cool babysitter. She made sure we ate breakfast and lunch. Then she would let us watch one of my favorite old school cartoon shows, Underdog, before she made us take our afternoon nap. Things were peaceful for a change; no roaches, no stinky elevators and no more living in the projects. Like in the words of Ice Cube, “Those few days were some good days.”
Then that unexpected whirlwind day came when a woman named Ms. Irving, who claimed she was from the Department of Child & Family Services, came to my aunt’s house and told us we would be living in temporary foster care until our mother got well.
Now, the question is: who in the hell called these people to come take us away from our family? Who would do such a thing to innocent kids who were already facing circumstances that were out of their control? Ms. Irving was a tall, thin, black woman with long curly hair and long fake eyelashes. I could not believe that this fake Diana Ross wannabe was standing there with a smile on her face as if everything was fine and dandy, talking about how they found some good people to care for us. Did she have this conversation with my mother? Did Ms. Brown agree to this? Are you telling me the woman who taught us not to talk strangers was going to allow us to live with people she never met or talked to a day in her life? With my mind confused with many unanswered questions, my brothers and I left with the woman while the so-called family watched us go.
As we were leaving, another unwanted load was dumped on us. We found out we were not going to be together under the same roof. What? First, we’re separated from our parents, then from our family, and now you’re telling us that we were going into separate foster homes? I really needed some answers because something was not right about the whole situation.
Later on my mother said that one of her sisters had signed her into the mental ward where she stayed for three days and from there a bus took her to Tinley Park Mental Hospital. My mother said it felt like a long ride to Tinley Park. Then, if that was not enough, three days later she received a mailgram telling her we were placed into foster care. She started screaming and crying loud. Two days later she was called into a room with a woman and a man from DCFS. They tried to get her to sign papers to have us put up for adoption. She refused, and vowed that she was going to fight the system and get her kids back. When they saw she was not willing to give up her parental rights, they left and she never saw them again.
Even though they were gone, she was still left with the pain in her heart that her children were taken and forced to live with strangers. Not only did Ms. Brown not give consent for us to be taken, but guess who else was out of the loop about our whereabouts? My mother’s husband and our daddy, Clarence. He did not even know that Vivian, who was still his wife, was admitted into a mental ward.
Now let me remind you that my so-called grandmother, Ms. Bernadine, had given birth to eleven children. Can I say eleven again? There were five grown women and six grown men. Well, I am going to excuse my Aunt Denise because she was still quite young, but I just did not understand how we had so many aunts and uncles and none of them could take us in. Some of them lived only a couple of blocks from each other but still they sent us away to live with strangers. They allowed us to be separated and for me that was the hardest part of the entire ordeal. Raffeal and I were separated from Pierre, who went to a different foster home. It did not seem as if things could get any worse for my brothers and me, but they did get worse…a whole lot worse.
At this time, I had turned seven years old. I know this because on this surprising day, I had on one my favorite shirts that my mother surprised me with from Zayre’s, a popular department store. This was a cute green shirt with seven scoops of various flavors ice cream on a waffle cone in honor of her baby girl’s upcoming seventh birthday. Oh, how I loved that shirt! My baby brother who was now four years old and I were in the car on our way to a new home. I was sad because I did not know when I would next see my big brother. Who was going to protect his little sister and brother? I was also scared about not knowing who this new person was. We pulled up to a bungalow-style home and guess where it was located? Remember when I told you to remember the street names?
Well, this house was located on 57th and Honorie. Are you kidding me? Hell, we could have hopped and skipped to this person’s house. Now, ask yourselves this question, did my family already know this critical information? In the words of Kat Williams: “Don’t worry, I’ll wait.” The caseworker rang the doorbell and the door was opened by a woman name Rose.
When I first met Rose, I thought she was a servant because that woman, I kid you not, was dressed exactly like Aunt Jemima. Rose was very dark in spirit and in color. She was a very dark-complexioned, short, thick, unattractive-looking woman. She seemed cold, but I didn’t know if that was because I was scared and knew she was not my mother, or if it was because I was worried about my brother Pierre.
She did not greet us with any type of love or hug or say that she was happy to have us in her home. There were no damn cupcakes or even other family members of hers there to meet and greet us, nope, just her Aunt Jemima on the pancake box-looking self. I just stood there in her living room holding my baby brother’s hand really tight. I did not trust this person at all and I believed she knew it.
As the caseworker explained and gave guidelines, Rose would glance over at us for a couple of seconds, but if looks could kill, we were dead. Rose lived in a very nice house, very clean and organized, but she allowed her dogs to live inside the home. She owned a big German shepherd and a big, white, hairy dog. I was more afraid of her than of the dogs. The dogs never barked or growled at us and she kept the dogs in their own room, but they were freely able to roam the home at times.
She took Raffeal and me upstairs to the room where we would be sleeping which was right next to her room. As I said, she lived in a bungalow-style home and most of these homes had attic space that you could use for bedrooms. My brother and I each had our own twin-size bed and the room was nice and clean. I do not recall us having any clothes to unpack.
Initially things seemed as if they would work out with this living arrangement and that gave me second thoughts about Rose. I thought maybe I was the one not being nice and maybe I made her feel uneasy in her own home. Here was a woman who was willing to take us into her home when my own family did not want us and I was passing judgment. Then again, we were children that were too young to know if we were in any deliberate danger.
Passed Around By Man But Not Passed Over By God Chontate Brown Copyright ©2013 All rights reserved.