Just as my right foot hit the first step, a loud knock sounded behind me. I turned, staring at the locked wooden door. Why would anyone be knocking on that door? I knew that no steps joined the door with the ground six feet below. A sharp knock interrupted my musings.
I reached over and unlocked the useless, exterior door. Standing back, I swung the door open and peered down.
“Hello!” I said to the open passenger window. “Uh, this door isn’t used. The owner never built the steps, as you can see.” I chuckled, restraining the explosion of laughter I felt growing at the ridiculous scene playing out.
“We heard that you babysit kids here?”
“Yes, I do. Would you like to drive around to the back steps and come on in?”
“Uh, no. We’re in kind of a hurry. Can we pay you when we get back this afternoon?“
“Sure,” I said, noticing a large paper grocery sack thrust out the open window.
“This is a sack of Cody’s clothes. He’s not potty-trained yet. I don’t want you to have to wash his clothes. Just put them in the plastic sack and take another outfit when he wets one. This should be enough for the day.”
I bent down and grabbed the bag full of clean clothing, discovering it contained only pants, shirts, and underwear—no diapers. I hadn’t noticed the father bringing the little boy to the opening in the side of the house until he held him up to me.
I dropped the sack inside the doorway and reached for the child. “Welcome to our house, Cody! How old are you?”
The father and Cody responded simultaneously, “Three,” said Dad while Cody presented his hand with thumb and little finger bent into his palm—the three-finger salute. “He’s a big boy, so he’s gonna wear big boy clothes, aren’t ya son?”
The little pre-schooler lowered his head. I wrapped my arms around him and gently squeezed. “Cody, we have another boy here today who is also three! He’s a little taller than you but Danny’s lots of fun.”
“Okay, well, we gotta get going,” said the tall cowboy. “We should be back by six. That's all right, isn’t it?”
I agreed, resolving that Cody would have a fun and memorable day with the kids. I must admit I also had a twinge of anxiety that his parents might not come back for the little tyke.
Fortunately, I had only my three foster girls and two regulars that day. For Cody that might seem like a crowd, but I felt confident the other children would make the shy little buckaroo feel welcome.
Calling the kids down from the playroom, I introduced each one, adding their age so Cody would see he fit right into the little band. “Cody, Deni will show you around and tell you the rules here. Danny, when you need to go to the bathroom, would you please take Cody with you? He’s just learning, and I think you can show him how things are done.”
Danny agreed. I smiled as I watched the little gang begin the tour of the place, punctuated with do’s and don’t’s from the lovely red-headed four-year-old girl. I heard Baby Susie’s chatter and moved to free her from the crib.
Half an hour later, while folding clothing in my bedroom, I heard the voices of Danny and Cody accompanied by the clopping of boots across the wooden hallway. “Now, watch me, Cody. I been doin’ this for a long time.”
I recognized the slap of the seat and lid against the toilet tank. “The first thing ya gotta do is lift both of these. Women don’t like it if ya miss and get the place they sit all wet.”
“Okay,” said the barely-audible trainee.
“Do like me,” said Danny. I heard two little zippers and figured Cody would get to try Danny’s technique right away.
“Cody. You can do it. Make a splash in the water.”
I listened, but I also prayed for Cody. How I wanted him to succeed.
A few seconds later, the splash generated by the little stream provoked cheers from the two three-year-olds. Inwardly, I clapped and did a happy dance for Cody. Danny’s next instruction interrupted my thank you’s to God.
“Now, Cody, this part’s important. In Mama Dar’s house, there’s all girls. That means that ya gotta remember to put these back down before you leave the room.” The unmistakable sound of the seat and lid dropping accented his instruction. Good boy, I thought.
I needn’t have worried that Danny would be saddled with taking Cody to the bathroom all day. After only one demonstration, Cody not only got it, he loved it. His little boots clopped across the hallway more frequently than I’d expected for a pre-schooler.
On one occasion, I worried about the little guy because he had been in the restroom longer than usual. My concern that Cody may be ill evaporated the moment I caught sight of his little head twisted to drink from the bathroom sink. The pre-schooler loved standing up to pee so much that he drank from the faucet until his tank needed emptying again.
Just after six o’clock, a knock sounded from the side door of the house. I knew it had to be Cody’s parents, so I opened it. I lowered the full sack of clean clothes to his mother. She took the bag and frowned.
“I told you not to wash his clothes. Why did you do that? Do I need to pay you more?”
I stretched out my arm to rest on the three-year-olds shoulders. “I didn’t wash any of them. Cody didn’t need any, did you?”
The little boy smiled and shook his head, adding, “I know how to do it. Danny taught me.”
Here’s where we want to hear the Daddy cheer and slap his son on the back, right? Sadly, his father lifted Cody out of the door frame and said, “We’ll see how long that lasts.”
“We’re proud of you, Cody! Come back anytime—even just to play with the kids.” I waved both hands, smiling and silently praying for God to be with our new little friend.
The victorious little champ continued smiling and waving at me as the car turned onto the road for home.
I never again saw Cody. God allowed us into his life for such a brief, but important, time.
Note: All Kids’ names have been changed.
Story thread begins with With Just One Phone Call