“Nothin’,” said the cute red-headed four-year-old, without turning towards me.
“We’s waitin’ for sumptin’ to look at, Mama Dar.” The explanation made perfect sense to the two-year-old African-American.
“Would you like to go outside to do your waiting? I could put Susie* in the playpen out under the tree.
Their squeals said it all as the duo sprang from the sofa and rushed over to the piano bench. Dropping to the floor, each youngster pulled on her tennis shoes.
I lifted Susie out of the playpen. “Let’s give you a clean diaper, little Princess, so you don’t draw any flies to the playpen.” I nestled her tiny head against my cheek and chuckled. Seven-month-old Susie’s giggles echoed mine.
Re-entering the living room, a wide grin spread across my face. Susie’s sisters struggled to squeeze the baby’s playpen through the kitchen door.
Jamie heard Susie’s baby babble and said, “We’s heppppin’, Susie. You’s gonna be outside like me ‘n’ Deni.”
Deni looked up with a frown. Moving to take hold of one corner, I lifted and twisted the flexible rod. The playpen popped free. “You girls are doing a great job. Thanks for the help.”
I made my way back to the house once the trio had been settled. Nahum, my long-legged, white-haired Griffin-Husky mix galloped passed me on his way down the steps I’d just ascended. Oh no, I thought, I should have told the kids not to throw the stick for Nahum with the baby outside.
Seeing Nahum plop down right next to the playpen, my fears evaporated. The dog had found his place, guarding the baby. Nahum refused to move—even after he glimpsed Deni with his stick.
Pulling ingredients out of the refrigerator and pantry, I started making cookies for the children’s snack. I heard a knock on the screen door about the time I had everything assembled. Wiping my moist hands on my apron, I moved to the back door.
“Hello,” I said to the handsome little towheaded boy. “What’s your name?”
“I’m Danny* and your dog won’t let me see your baby.”
I looked over the small shoulder. Sure enough, Nahum stood silent guard in front of the playpen. “His name is Nahum, Danny. He doesn’t know you, so he’s protecting Susie from a stranger.”
“Can’t you get him to let me look at your baby, Lady? I won’t hurt her; I just wanta look.”
“How old are you, Danny?”
“Thwee,” the boy said as he pressed his thumb and little finger down, leaving three fingers pointing at me.
“Well, you’re a big boy. I think Nahum will let you see Susie if I go with you the first time.”
Danny waited for me at the bottom of the steps. I called Nahum over to us and put Danny’s hand out for Nahum to smell. About two seconds later, Nahum bumped his head against the palm of Danny’s hand. The little boy understood and began stroking.
Walking over to the playpen, I introduced Deni and Jamie to our young visitor. I lifted Susie out and squatted next to Danny.
“She’s weally little,” said the three-year-old as he ever-so-gently lifted up the hand she waved at him.
“Her’s just a baby,” Deni said. “Her’s too small to play with you. Wanna play with Jamie ‘n’ me?”
Nahum resumed his position, lying next to the playpen. Moving to the side of the house, the trio threw a beach ball to one another. This activity lasted about half an hour.
Suddenly, I heard the sound of kid-size feet pounding up the back steps. I relaxed as I realized the aroma of the baked goods on the cooling racks wafted through the side window. “Hungry?”
Three heads bobbed up and down. “Dat boy humgy, too,” Jamie said pointing to her new friend.
“Jamie, his name’s Danny.” I waited while she repeated his name before adding, “Do you live near here, Danny?”
“No, but my Gramma does. My mom had to go to work, so she took me to her house.” The boy pointed to a house across the street.
“Deni? Will you and Jamie go with Danny to ask his Gramma if he can have some cookies and milk with you?” I followed the chattering trio out the door to bring Susie back in the house.
I plowed through some of my backlog of office work while the three played in our yard all morning. Fortunately, the fresh air had provoked an early nap for Susie, so I had a chunk of uninterrupted time.
As the weeks passed, I found it a greater challenge to secure babysitting for the kids. John and Jeanette’s life became more hectic with fewer free days to spend with the children. The result led to a meeting one evening in my home.
For three nights, Susie’s troubled sleep dragged me in and out of my bed. Having been assured the virus would run its course, I struggled to wait it out. Into this sorry scenario entered the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the hospital board.
The men waved me back into the rocker; the sleeping infant cradled in my arms. The reason for this home visit had not been announced, but I’d been expecting the confrontation.
At the conclusion of a very brief meeting, tears filled my eyes at the final pronouncement. “The fact is that you cannot be in two places at the same time. The children need you here at home on the days you don’t have childcare. The hospital needs you in your office during the week. We’re sorry, but…,” the official said as they stood.
After the men left, I gently laid Susie in her crib, praying she’d not wake up screaming. Tip-toeing back to the rocker, I clutched my Bible to my chest. I rocked, tears streaming down my cheeks until the rivers began to drench my blouse. Feeling the warm moisture on my fingers, I rubbed my Bible on my jeans and reached for a Kleenex.
When I could finally speak, I prayed. “Oh, Father God, I need You right now! What am I going to do to take care of these kids? I just lost my job. Those guys are my friends. It must have been so hard for them to come here tonight. I know they’re right. But now, what? Where do I get money to feed the children and pay the bills?”
As I rocked and read my Bible, a calm blanketed me. After an hour, the memory of the tow-headed boy popped into my mind. The germ of an idea began to sprout.
The thread of this story began with: With Just one Phone Call