I take great joy in knowing a woman whom I like to call a keeper of unwanted angels. She’s a foster mother, a person approved by the Children’s Aid Society to take children into her home, often on a temporary or as-needed basis from some crisis situation. These children have inherited life circumstances they have no control over or part in making.
Lily is secure in her womanhood, rooted to a traditional way of life that is rarely seen in our time. Her hospitality reminds me of when you could invite strangers in and welcome anyone to share in your supper. She has cared for children no one else would willingly choose to.
I recollect one little girl who arrived with the social worker pushing her through the doorway. This precious gem was just two years old. She scurried around all the rooms like a frightened animal until she spotted one space in a corner. As her eyes filled with terror, she pushed herself as far into that corner as she could manage to squeeze in.
Lily offered her a cookie that she grasped and with one movement, pushed the whole thing into her mouth, swallowing without stopping to chew. For the first few days, she ate until she was sick. Lily would sometimes find her crawling around the floor picking up any crumbs she could find. But it only took a few months of nurturing to change this outwardly neglected, frightened little girl into a laughing ball of energy.
Lily protects what she calls “my keeds.” When a close relative reacted negatively to her work, she cut off the relationship. I tried to talk to her about not kicking her relative to the curb. Lily rolled her eyes up, turned her head towards me and said, “Shelley, God don’t like ugly.”
Generally, foster kids stay in a home from anywhere from six to twelve months. The three little girls Lily has now have all been with her for two years. The oldest is eight and the two sisters are four and five. Lily says the oldest is now beyond adoption age: “They can’t find another permanent home for her, so my home is her home now.” As for the two sisters, “They can’t be separated. Children’s Aid needs to find a home for the two, or none.”
I just fold my hands and listen to her excuses as to why she will not sever her ties with these kids. I know she faced loneliness herself growing up. Her mother and grandmother worked in service in white families. Lily was not welcomed in these homes, and was left alone at home, at least until the time her grandmother got sick and came home for good
This brings me to the larger question about the “keeds” who are not lucky enough to find themselves at the door of a foster parent like Lily. What happens to them? What is it about our society that has so much wealth, but cannot find enough to share with these unwanted babies? While I, like so many others, sit and wait for the world to change, women like Lily keep going and doing.