I went “home” this weekend. My middle brother, Joel, was there with his wife and 3 kids. We all have kids now and easily fill up the 5 bedroom home of my parents when we all come back for a weekend. Bryan, the oldest, and his wife have 3, then there is me with my hubby and our two, and my little brother, Caleb and his wife. Bryan and Caleb weren’t home this time, just me and my middle brother. We had a great weekend just “being”. That’s how it is when we are all home. My mom and dad don’t overwhelm us with big plans or places to go or people to see…they simply let us enjoy being home by “being” together. There is just something about “home”, even as an adult, that brings such comfort. Knowing that you belong there, that you have a room there, and that even when the world pushes or pulls you, you have a place where you can simply exist and be accepted not because your great, or important, or have a title; but simply because you are you and you are loved. Every time I walk in that back door, I remember the first time. I still keep the banner that was taped across it..”Welcome to our Family Kristle!!” Love, Tim, Rita, Bryan, Joel and Caleb
I had met the man that preached at the Christian Church a few times, but only briefly. One of my shorter stays at a transitional foster home had landed me in his church for Easter Sunday service, and I was introduced to him. I had seen him around school, he had been a substitute teacher for one of my classes, and I had seen him at a few sporting events. Although he was friendly, and loud, and kind, I would have been nervous and scared to talk to a preacher like Tim Champ!
The day I was being sent away from my town, from my friends and from my school…the life I was just starting to build for myself, I met her. I didn’t know her, just knew she was the preachers wife. In that moment of fear, being led to a car that would take me to anywhere, somewhere I certainly didn’t want to go, she came like a whirlwind into my life.
I was still in some shock over what I had just experienced. My 5th foster home, the one that took the time to hear me, see me, and began to build me was gone. I came home to my things already packed for me and sitting by the door. It was right before Christmas and beautifully wrapped gifts that just the day before lay under a lit and twinkling tree now sat by my black garbage bag of belongings. My social worker was there, and my foster mother was in tears. I was leaving, that was clear.
I had just said my goodbyes to a family who lived up the road that led out of the small town. I had grown close to them and at that time they felt like my only friends in the world. I was leaving, being moved to a new foster home in a new town and I was crushed. My future was unclear, uncertain, and terrifying. My social worker and I walked out of the house, and started down the sidewalk that would lead me to the car she would put me in and drive me away into what felt like the abyss. With my head down, I didn’t even see the white van approaching until I heard it hit the gravel of the driveway.
She came out of the van, moving what seemed at the time rather quickly. I remember her hand in the air as if to stop the injustice that was happening, or to signal to the woman at my side that was, at the moment, controlling my destiny. “We’ll take her!” is all I remember her saying.
I know she said much more than that in the conversation that ensued, but I remember none of that…the only words that have stuck with me all these years later, and will ring in my memories forever were those three words….”We’ll. Take. HER.”
I stood there, probably doe eyed and eyes glazed for a moment. I didn’t know the Champs knew who I was? Why had the woman in the white van said that? How could she want me, she didn’t know me…did she? Did she mean she would take me right now, for the night; for the week; or forever? The woman at my side gave me a puzzled look, and I remember her asking if I knew the lady from the white van. I lied. I told her that I did. It wasn’t really a lie, I knew who she was. I don’t really think that I had ever met her, and I’m sure that up until the events that followed I had never actually spent any amount of time with her, but she had just spoken words that I was clinging to with the greatest of hope, so I told the woman she was the preachers wife and I went to school with their 3 sons. I was pretty sure her name was Rita. I told my social worker this, knowing I barely had met these people, but I knew what she just said, “WE (will) TAKE HER”, so that was all I needed to know.
That event didn’t change having to get in the car and drive to my 6th Foster home, a temporary one where I would be just a little over a week. I still had to go there while the State figured out what to do with me, and decided how to navigate through this interestingly rare situation. A family, NOT a foster home, had just offered to take me…and they were serious. I have no idea how that week went for the Champs. I would love to have been a fly on the wall when the woman in the white van came home to tell her husband what she had just done!! What must their 3 sons have thought? Where did the family conversation take place when Tim and Rita shared the uncertain future and certain changes for our family?
I don’t know those answers, I wasn’t there. What I know is that a week later, I walked up to the back door of that 5 bedroom house carrying my black garbage bag to see a sign that welcomed me HOME.