Even my sweet eight-year-old brother couldn’t talk me out of the corner where I scrunched up against the wall, hiding, my eyes tightly shut. Holding out his hand to me, Ronnie said, “Come on, Dawnie, these are nice people and they are going to take you for a ride in their big car.”
I shook my head from side to side, too scared to talk, and my brother begged me, “Please Dawnie, just come say hi to them. They have a baby doll for you in the car and some candy. I saw it. Everything will be okay. Just come out, pleeeease.”
I opened my eyes and saw that my grandmother had one hand over her mouth, as if to prevent fear from tumbling out, while she clutched her rosary beads in the other. It was then that I knew something really bad was happening. Mom’s eyes darted around the room like they did just before she started yelling—another bad omen.
From my favorite hiding place beneath the corner table in the living room, I could see this new man standing tall as the sky. He remained silent, nervously twirling his hat in his hand. Suddenly, the beautifully dressed woman was hugging my grandmother like I had watched old friends do in other families.
I could tell that my brother was about to start crying, something he rarely did. I would do anything to keep him from being sad, so I put my hand in his.
As he picked me up, I buried my head into his shoulder, wrapping my legs around his waist and holding onto him with all of my might. He walked out of the front door and stopped beside the big blue car. Someone was trying to pull me loose, but clinging to him, I screamed over and over again, “No, no, no, no, no!” I felt his tears on my face as I was wrenched from his arms. He turned and ran away. I was screaming, “I want Ronnie, I want Ronnie, I want R-o-n-n-i-e!”
Except for the empty place in my heart that belonged to my brothers, I thrived in the care of my foster parents. I was never hungry. I loved that everyone smelled so perfumy, like Lux soap. The house had paint and flowers in the yard, no dog poop was put in my face, and they even tied my shoelaces for me.
Every morning, “Mommy” Blanche made me cinnamon toast and a glass of orange juice. Late afternoons, she gently bathed and dressed me in soft little dresses with bows in my hair and black patent leather shoes. I liked to sit near her while she combed her thick salt-and-pepper hair before dabbing lipstick and powder on her pretty face. Then we waited together on the front porch for the man as tall as the sky to walk through the gate. When I would run to him, he would pick me up high over his head, then hug and kiss me, which always made me giggle with delight. Later we would all sit down at a real table and share our dinner, something I had never experienced before. I loved everything about my new home, although I would often think of my big brother and ache for the boy with the dimples who made my heart open wide with smiles.
At my new mom and dad’s house, I was not permitted to climb trees, and I had to wear shoes that made my feet feel trapped. But my new parents made me very happy, and I adjusted well.
Later, I was told that they begged my real mom to let me stay with them, but she refused. Without warning or explanation, my mother demanded that I be returned, although nothing had changed at the old house.