Dicka was sick this week. While I changed her sheets, I found two photo albums by her bed—the ones with pictures of all the little ones we hosted through Safe Families for Children. The books are for us only, and we protect the images of those faces like we protect their lives while they stay with us.
I flipped through the pages, and my heart squeezed again. Here’s a story I wrote, first published here on the blog on January 21, 2016, about one of our twenty-eight loves.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things, there is no law.
I pulled the Honda up to the curb in front of Healing House. For the protection of the women who were enrolled and living there with their children, the address of the place was unpublished. I glanced at the placement information I had received in the Urgent Needs email. Mona, the woman I had come to meet—the biological mother—had gotten in a fight with another woman and was being kicked out of Healing House’s eighteen-month program. And now she needed coverage for her baby girl for one week while she found other living arrangements for the two of them.
I climbed out of the vehicle, glancing at the infant car seat in the back, knowing it would soon carry an eight-month-old passenger. I strode to the front entrance and pressed the buzzer.
A young woman came to the door. “Are you the host mom from Safe Families for Children?”
“Yes, I am. Are you Mona?”
She nodded, a shy smile playing on her lips, and motioned for me to follow her. “I already have her things packed for you. I hope it’s enough.”
On the floor next to the front desk sat several brimming garbage bags and numerous pieces of baby equipment. Our family had served kids who owned very little, and the five-month-old twins had come to our home with only the clothes on their bodies, a few diapers, and enough formula to get us through the first night. The sight of the large amount of baggage in front of me pricked my heart. “It’s more than enough.”
“Wanna see Adele now?” Mona’s eyes shone.
We walked down a long hallway to a sunny nursery. A childcare worker bounced a baby on her hip and handed a toy to a toddler who tugged on her shirt. When we stepped inside the room, the woman brought the baby to us.
“She’s darling.” I reached out for Adele and took her into my arms. She smiled at me, and so did Mona.
I gave her back to her mother for our walk out to my car. Mona buckled her baby into the car seat, kissing her first on the forehead and then once on each cheek. She closed the door and turned to me.
“Thank you.” Her words, warm with untold stories, lit her face.
I touched her sleeve. “I’m happy to help, Mona.”
Later that day, after dinner and playtime with Adele, it was time to say goodnight. I whisked her away from my girls, and they followed me into the guest room. They poked through the clothing bags, oohing and aahing over the tiny dresses.
I made funny faces at the baby while I changed her diaper. “Can one of you find something for her to wear to bed?”
Flicka handed me a pair of pajamas, and Ricka chose Adele’s outfit for the next day.
Dicka pulled something square and flat from one of the bags. “Mom, look. This was in there with the clothes.”
A Baby’s First Year calendar. I remembered recording the tender details of my babies’ first years in calendars like this one. And like Mona, I had captured all the firsts too—the first tooth, the first time sleeping through the night, the first step.
Dicka settled onto the guest bed and flipped through the calendar’s pages. After I zipped Adele into the fuzzy pajamas, I sat down too, snuggling the baby on my lap. I gazed at the document in Dicka’s hands as if it were a priceless artifact. Because it was.
Mona had chronicled Adele’s birth and filled in the family tree. Then in more blanks designated for the baby, she had instead written about Adele’s father, telling the story of how they had first met when he moved onto her block—just a few houses down from hers—one summer. As the warm winds swept in that July, so had their love, and the two were inseparable. He was her Once-in-a-Lifetime, a good man, and she was proud of him—and Adele would be too one day. Though her words were cheery, pain lived in the spaces between Mona’s sentences.
I drew in a deep breath and exhaled. “We should put this away.”
Dicka nodded, closing the calendar and tucking it back in with the clothing.
The days with Adele fluttered by, and she spent her waking hours glued to Dicka’s hip.
“You can let her have some floor time, honey,” I called from the kitchen while I made dinner one night. “It would be good for her.”
“No, that’s okay,” Dicka hollered back. “I don’t mind.”
At the end of the week, I met Mona again.
“We looked at the calendar you packed with Adele’s clothes.” I deposited the baby into her arms. “I hope that was okay.”
“Yeah.” She beamed, her eyes sparking with life.
I remembered the other mothers we had served during our time as a host family. All of them had bigger dreams for their kids. All of them were brave. And all of them had the kind of love that could let a baby go to strangers for a while because of something better in the end.
But memories of Mona rose above the rest. Her words, bleeding out beauty on the page for her daughter to one day read, marked me and reminded me that in her life—as in mine—love had come first.
It always comes first.
*Miss an installment of the blog? Or want to catch the story from the beginning? Visit http://www.tamarajorell.com/blog-entries-by-date
*Names in this blog have been changed to protect my family, neighbors, and friends in the neighborhood, and in a nod of appreciation to the beloved Swedish author Maj Lindman, I’ve renamed my three blondies Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka.