Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Purple Blanket

A few weeks ago, I wrote about Black Kitty. The tables recently turned, and I had to consider if something dear to me was worth more than loving another person.

For almost a year, our whole family has been reconsidering, selling, or giving away many of our things. We’re using questions like:

Can I borrow this from a library?

Does someone else I know own this, and could I borrow it?

Is this item common? Reasonably priced to replace?

Is this item easily found at garage sales or second hand stores?

How often do I use this?

Do I really need this?

Do I need to hold this item to have the memory?

I thought we’d been doing well at living with open hands. Although it still seems like tidying up needs to happen regularly, the more I handle certain items, the easier it is to let them go. We’ve talked about what size moving truck we’re aiming for, and what needs to be sold or given away to fit into a certain size space.

And then new neighbors moved in.
Taking a walk last week, a six-year-old girl waved from her porch and asked if my kids could play. It was an interruption to family time after work with Nick, but there are no kids at our end of the block. Because my kids have yearned for nearer playmates, my heart decided that this interruption was worth it for all kids involved.

Little did I know that we’d see this young girl every 20 minutes from 3:30-7:45pm that day. And the next day, she knocked on our door almost as frequently. And the day after that.

Some things about her stood out immediately. But it’s been hard to differentiate them from how I raise my own children.

She looked like she dressed herself.

She brought over sidewalk chalk and bubbles.

She readily shared candy and peanut butter cracker snack packs.

She eagerly kept an ear out for the ice cream truck (buying is something my kids have yet to experience, due to food allergies).

She had a can of saved change and a few one-dollar bills.

She was playing in her front yard while her mom was inside (we don’t have a backyard really, and I can sit in the nursing chair and see and hear my kids; they know not to leave our property).

By the end of the first evening, some differences were not ok.
Her mom never came downstairs to talk with or supervise her daughter.

I requested that she ask her mom’s permission, and that I meet her mom before she could play inside (out of view) my house… mom never came down, and her daughter informed me that she was sick.

There seemed to be no schedule; this girl could access and eat anything she wanted, at any time. She didn’t understand that our family eats dinner as a family, and that means playtime is over.

She gave away food and offered toys, like she was trying to buy playtime with our kids.

She unlocked her mom’s car, climbed around hunting for candy and coins without asking.

She ran across the street without any concern for safety, to pet a cat.

Walking Home

Finally, by 7:45pm the first day we met her, I informed her that I would walk her home and I really needed to meet her mom if playing together was going to continue. Walking in the door of this recently condemned building, it smelled of paint and cigarette smoke. Remodeling looked quickly, partly, and very basically finished.

Everything in the living room was in about 15 grocery store plastic bags and one open suitcase. No furniture. Nothing was in the dining room. No sign of her mom.

I called out, “Helllo!” in order to not surprise her mom as the girl ran into the bedroom. The mom had been lying down on the bed, watching a small TV on the floor. She looked sleepy or depressed, but not sick. She avoided my eyes and barely shook my hand.

I introduced myself and described where I lived, so mom would know where to find her daughter. I gave her a piece of paper with our names, my phone number, and address. Mom seemed reticent to disclose anything about herself. Her daughter had been the one to mention her mom’s name. I mentioned my daughter, who would be entering kindergarten, the name of the public school, where the bus stop for our street is, and when school starts. The mom avoided talking about school and without commitment remarked, “Yeah, I suppose I should register her for school.”

I excused myself after this basic introduction, walking myself to the door. A man who was not the girl’s father was running up the steps as I started down.

Over the next three days, Nick and I used play times with this girl to gain more information. We talked with our neighbor across the street who always sits out on his porch and who has a more direct view of the mom’s apartment. He mentioned drug drop offs. This led us to discuss keeping journals and license plate number, and the timing of calling either social services or the police. Our fear was that the mom would dump everything into her car and run.

Nick and I noted more details in a journal.
The girl fell returning to her house, badly scraping her knees and hands and crying loudly. Mom didn’t come outside, and Nick ended up bringing the girl to our house to wash herself off and get a bandage.

Mom smelled of marijuana when she came to pick up the girl once.

The daughter was in awe of our kids’ bedroom. She mentioned twice that her jacket and bed were at her cousin’s house. We found out that her bed was blankets on the floor, and that she had no bed right now. She slept on the bare floor right now.

Abigail was listening as the girl described how she slept. Abigail said, “Wait a minute.” and returned from her room with a blanket from her own bed. She picked up a fleece blanket from the living room that we’d recently used for an indoor picnic.

I clarified, “Would you like two blankets to take home and keep as your bed?” The girl nodded. “Abigail, we’re offering her the black fuzzy blanket and the purple horse blanket to keep. We’re giving them away. Are you okay with that?” Abigail nodded.

My heart felt full and shredded at the same time.

I was proud of Abigail for immediately responding in a way that girl needed and accepted.

I was heart-broken for the girl and her home life.

I felt anger at what sin does in the world, in both our homes.

I felt at a loss, staring face to face with our middle-class life and this girl’s life on the edge.

I felt a twinge, a heart-check as Abigail handed her the purple horse blanket: my grandmother had sewn this one for me as a child. I had given it to Abigail, who loved horses since she could say horse.

Sifting through things has been happening for almost a year straight, but was I ready to so easily give a sentimental item away to someone in need? There were no other blankets to give away; there remained only the blankets on our beds and this sentimental one. I thought hard that night until I went to bed, and I came to peace with it.

Memories are formed and remembered because of an emotion that is tied to a situation. My daughter and I will have many opportunities to make our own good memories together. This girl needed a good memory of a friend right then.

Being the mom of a newborn, and three kids ages five and under, I feel a mental strain most days. I’m trying to meet every kid’s needs, challenge their minds and hearts, and shower them with Jesus’ love, and most days I still feel like I came up short and that someone missed out. Modeling healthy boundaries as I need space to form my own children, especially Ariel as a newborn, yet keeping our door open and offering healthy generosity has been weighing on my mind and heart so much this week.

So has the question of “What do we really need, to be a happy, healthy family?”

The blanket was sewn in love, and given away in love. Period.

How about you? Have you experienced something like this as a child?

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