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Jett Superior laid this on you on || February 27, 2007 || 12:19 am


She came with a fat knot on her right cheek and the clothes on her back. I had her social worker bring her to my office, because I thought it might be a wee bit intimidating to be jumped into the small ocean of six people. She’s only seven –and just barely– after all.

“Hey Jett,” the placement worker had greeted me earlier in the day, “I know that you’re down as a respite-only home, but would you consider taking a single child?” Shit lady, I’d build a people corral in my back yard and take every kid you sent down the pike were it up to me. It’s not up to me, though. It’s up to the one other adult in this house first, and input from the Junior Superiors is weighed as a secondary.

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We are an accidental foster family. I’d been working as a support worker all of two weeks when I happened upon a kid that I was sure belonged in the Superior home. Maxim was hearing none of what I was saying in favor of us fostering. He didn’t spend his days with these remarkable, breathtaking displaced kids like I did; how in God’s name could I really expect him to understand?? Time passed, and one day a girl climbed in my car. Fourteen and savvy, she reminded me of a little-bitty, dark-haired Drew Barrymore.

I got to her, and she to me, but more importantly, I got her. It wasn’t long before the Superior family started mentoring her and one day long about nine months her social worker sat us down.

“I want you to go through foster parent classes. I’d like to place Piper in your home.” Had Maxim not gotten to know this kid, had we never collectively developed an attachment to her, he never would have consented. Less than two weeks after our certification, Piper’s worker delivered her, laden with a carload of belongings, through our door. She moved into what was to have been my art studio and has been there ever since. This was nearly two years ago.

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She exited her worker’s car, tiny legs leaden with the day’s events and long, tedious, unsure wait. The county had picked up twenty-one kids the day before, a Sunday. Sundays are supposed to be slow days, for hellsakes. Slow days. How many meth labs get busted during business hours?

“I’m afraid,” she confesses openly to me. This is good, that she can express herself like this and we’ve only just met an hour prior. Most kids, it takes them ages to proffer up an honest feeling. They’ll cook up ten stories to cover one emotion.

She looked up and caught sight of the house then. “HEY!” she cried into the darkness, “Four kids get off the bus here! I know this place!” It was a good sign.

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Two weeks ago Piper called her social worker. She wanted to inquire about making the move back to her grandmother’s home. When she told me, I felt betrayed and gut-punched. What I really felt, though, was fear. I love this child as if I had birthed her. Sending her back there to those people would be tantamount to dropping her into a hole filled with venomous, riled-up snakes. My heart sank.

We’ve always promised her these things: To love her, to show no parity between her and our biological children, to support her in reasoned, rational decisionmaking. She cruises along, doing great and making progress and just when everything begins to click and hum like a machine was intended to, she mashes the emergency stop button but hard. She spins out, does something counterproductive and asinine and ohlordyherewegoagain. “Hello, I am Teenagernth.”

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This was a two weeks ago. What did she wear to sleep in that night? I can’t even remember. She slept in Scout’s room, I know that. She smiled when I pulled out the unicorn pillow, a vestige of Scout’s eight-year-old past.

We shopped every night for a week trying to get her outfitted with the basics, hitting the clearance racks at various places one hour a night. Little maryjanes and jammies and tiny mittens and ribbons. My fingers, bent at odd angles and pinching yards of grosgain, ached from making hair bows for her long, dark hair.

“It’s her,” I confessed into the dark of our bedroom. Ever since Maxim and I got married, I’ve dreamed of a dark-haired, dark-eyed little girl. From chubby baby with fat little fingers to toddler with a heavy shelf of bangs to kindergartener with short legs and round belly and snap-barrettes in her hair, I’d seen her progress in my dreams. From each vista of age she always stared at me, open and unblinking, with a face that never changed overmuch: It was if she was giving me opportunity over and over to take a solid, inquisitive look. I was too stunned –and too damned busy getting her somewhat settled– to say anything for the first six days.

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About a year ago, I reminded Maxim of the dreams. “Look,” he said to me, “you got that dark-eyed, dark-haired baby girl. Just so happens that she was fourteen when you met her.”

“Nuh-uh. It’s not her.” He dismissed this, as I recall. I didn’t care if he believed me or not….doubt is prevalent in these days. Time always manages to wring the truth out somewhere down the line. I’m just about the most impatient person I know, but for the stuff that matters I will hang on until my bones are dust; that’s just how I’m wired.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

I mused with Tess about which psuedonym I would dress her in should I decide to write about her. We bounced around names for about ten minutes, then I said, “I’ve been thinking about ‘Lilianna’; what do you think of that one?”

She lit up. “I liiiike it.”

Two days later I finally got to go over her paperwork thoroughly. A copy of her birth certificate in hand, I felt my face move independently of me to raise my eyebrows. Her birth mother’s name was Lilian-Ann.

So, laydehs and gennelmuns, meet the newest Superior, Lilianna. For a time, we are seven in number.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

The family has a roundness that it lacked before. That little girl has infused this house with a something I can’t yet quite put my finger on. She is perplexing, somber and anime-large eyes hiding Big Things in one instant and then she is mirthful, laughing free and and full with the whole of her tiny body in the next. Though she by and large distrusts adults, Lili has fallen in with each and every Superior child like she belongs to them. They have each established a very unique bond with her, even at this early stage of things. Sam airplanes her and mimics her little girly voice to make her giggle. Piper brushes her hair, answering question upon question upon question. Scout invites her to the sacred Upstairs Of The Big Kids, dragging out baby dolls and tea sets so that Lili can play alongside her as she paints and writes. Mathias reads to her and apes for her because they have the same goofy, larger-than-life sense of humor.

These things I know so far: Lilianna connects best with females. She is a very girly-girl. She patently refuses to wear sleeveless tops of any sort, saying that she ‘just doesn’t like to show my arms’ (how will this stand, here in the land of melt-your-skins-off humid and heavy summers?). She likes to help with housework. The kid loooooves cheese; every time it is mentioned in passing, she says without fail, “MMMM-mmmm, cheese.” She sometimes looks as if she is drowning in the space around her; the flip side of this is that she sometimes for all the world bears the appearance of a little shaman eyeballing the plane we inhabit with old, old eyes.

I also know that there is just something so very complete about her being here, for however long we may have her.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

Saturday morning found me waking to the sound of a little girl’s voice: “I know you are, but what am I?”

“Lilianna, I didn’t even say anything. You’re not making sense!”

“I know you are, but what am I?”

And Piper laughed.

My two dark-haired, dark-eyed baby girls: The one I saw coming and the one I didn’t. There is a fierce protectiveness I carry for each of them, just like for the three sandy blondes that I was fortunate enough to help usher in.

2 worked it out »

  1. Suzanne 2.27.2007

    Beautiful…. in every aspect.

  2. Shamrock 2.27.2007

    Mostly I doubt, but when I read this, I was instantly sure there really are angels on Earth. At least one, anyway.


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