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Saturday, August 22, 2015

Talent and Fear

While I prepared dinner in the kitchen, I heard four-year-old Deni* spontaneously craft a story to match the colorful pages she turned. Sounds like a more exciting story than the one written in that book, I thought.

Two-year-old Jamie* listened intently to her sister. Jamie’s thin body lay sprawled out prone, both forearms raised with her chin resting on tiny palms. The sight resurrected a long past memory when my older sister read to me.

Freckle-faced Deni, her back against the sofa with the storybook in her lap, sat with Jamie on her left and their six-month-old sister in the playpen on her right. Susie* gurgled and laughed about half a beat after her sisters as the extemporaneous tale progressed. The Pre-school reader had an incredible imagination.

I succeeded in not interrupting the story as I set the plates on the table. When the steaming hot dish entered the living room, however, two little heads swiveled as one.

Red-headed Deni rushed over to the round wooden table near the kitchen doorway. “We eating--again?”

I smiled at the question. Before I could answer I caught sight of Jamie’s kinky jet-black curls peeking from behind her older sister’s back. “This meal is called dinner. Remember this morning I told you we eat breakfast, lunch and dinner in our house?”

Every day?” Deni said, turning to look at Jamie, who had moved to her side.

“Yup! Every day, and every person in this house gets to eat,” I said, echoing my answer to Deni’s question earlier that day. “Sometimes, we call this meal ‘supper,’ but whatever it’s called, we all get to eat it.”

I witnessed Jamie open her mouth as if to speak, but she closed her lips and said nothing. Would I ever hear her sweet voice? Time would tell.

Seated around the table, I reached for Jamie’s spoon as soon as the “amen” had been spoken. “Here’s your spoon, Jamie. Please, use your spoon to eat your food instead of your hands.”

“Like me, Jamie,” said her older sister, demonstrating the proper use of a spoon.

Jamie hesitated a few moments, looking down at the spoon. Without a single word, the youngster started eating, her right fist clenching the spoon.  After two bites, not looking over at me, she lifted her left hand and plunged it into her food. The hand easily shoveled in more bites than the spoon-toting hand.

Deni noticed my gaze at her sister and said, “Hers only got one spoon, you know.” The explanation should be obvious to anyone, right?

Deni’s comment seemed like the final word on that issue. She resumed eating, and so did I. I knew Susie would want to be fed soon; I needed to finish my plate. Jamie’s table manners could wait for another meal. At least, she no longer hovered over the plate, trying to protect it. I reckoned, in time, she’d see I wouldn’t eat her food if she didn’t eat fast enough.

I found it incredible how much food the youngsters put away in one sitting. “We’ll have more food tomorrow, kids. You only need to eat enough to not be hungry now.”

I saw both heads nod. The continuous action of small jaws didn’t allow for a verbal response.

Following dinner clean-up and baths, the girls gathered at my side on the sofa. I selected another illustrated book and read the story to the kids. I loved putting actions and varying my voice to portray each character.

Deni offered to read the next book, so I could rock Susie before bedtime. The creak of the rocker, plus the happy sucking sounds of Susie with her bottle, accompanied the delightfully dramatic sound effects Deni put into the tale. She tried to give different voices to a couple of the characters, though didn’t always remember the assigned voice. Wonderful bedtime fun.

Susie dropped off to sleep about one minute after the bottle had been downed. Hearing the sisters yawn, I whispered instructions. “I’ll put Susie in her crib. You girls use the bathroom and head for bed. I’ll be in to say prayers and tuck you in soon.”

The pajama-clad children untangled their crossed legs, making no protests as they dragged weary bodies out of the living room. The kids veered to the left while I turned to the right.

Carefully I laid Susie in her crib. My forehead kiss and “Good night little precious,” never woke the sleeping infant.

I moved into the girls’ bedroom. Reaching up, I tucked Deni into the upper bunk. Bending down, I pulled the covers up to Jamie’s chest and let her rest both arms atop the bedcover. “Okay, girls, reach out a hand so I can take hold of it for our bedtime prayer,” I said as I stretched my right arm up to Deni. I lightly grasped Jamie’s right hand.

As soon as I’d finished praying, I squeezed the small hand in each of mine. My heart leapt when I felt the light pressure of their response.

Straightening up, I leaned over and gave Deni a light peck on her cheek, “Good night, Deni. Have a good sleep and remember, I love you.”

I bent down to repeat my departing gesture for Jamie. To keep from falling on her, I braced my left hand just under the pillow. What I touched took me aback. I felt the two-year-old stiffen.

“Good night, Jamie,” I said kissing her cheek. “Mama Dar loves you so much.” I patted her shoulder and stood.

“Have a good sleep and I’ll see you girls in the morning,” I said backing towards the open door. “We’ll go to church, so you can wear your new clothes tomorrow.”

“Me ‘n’ Jamie says ‘Night-Night’,” said Deni with a yawn.

I walked back into the living room; my first full day as the single mother of three kids had come to a close. Lifting my Bible off the end table, I clutched the worn volume to my chest. The tears I’d struggled to restrain fell freely. “Oh, my precious Father God, help Jamie know she’s safe in this house. Only You really know her heart and what will remove that gripping fear. Teach me how to help them all.”

I rocked gently enough to avoid the squeak as I read my Bible. “Oh, one more thing, please God,” I whispered. “Would you please help Jamie to get over hiding a piece of bread under her pillow by the end of the month? We’ll spend the weekend with my parents; my mother would freak. Thanks.”

I had no idea just how much earlier my Mom and Dad would actually meet the kids. Neither did I anticipate the joy that arrived in the morning.

*Name changed.

Story thread begins with the following post: With Just OnePhone Call

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