On our first day of official visitation, I spent the day with the children at their foster home. It was a Saturday and we spent 11 hours together – a very long day for very young children to be left with a total stranger, I thought. Camaro dragged me all over the house and yard – playing cars, jumping on the trampoline, looking through binoculars for squirrels in the trees, and riding trikes in the driveway. Luna, after I had gotten her dressed, spent the ENTIRE day clinging to and squeezing my shoulder and neck as I held her on my arm. Both kids were excited and happy to have someone new to play with. I was thrilled and overwhelmed and delighted and exhausted. Luna was heavy. Cam was busy. Luna hugged me so hard that she bit me and drew blood from the base of my neck. Cam ate bananas by putting one end into his mouth and then, with the other hand, pushed it continuously into his mouth until he had swallowed the whole thing. Cam had lots of cars and trucks that lit up and had siren noises. Luna got ahold of the penny collection and tipped them up and into her mouth like a metallic milkshake. Cam repeated and begged confirmation for every word I said, and Luna whispered sweet somethings into my captive ear. We fed the fish in the pond and played with the garden hose and watering can. I thought I was being calm and respectful by following their lead, but all I got was dizzy and disorganized and frazzled. After 11 hours, Patty and Sly returned and sat me down to fill me in on the children.
Both children had arrived in their home upon discharge from the hospital following their birth and medical stabilization. Luna, they said, was the “Baby From Hell” and I had missed nothing by not meeting her sooner. Her nickname was ‘Dozer (as in Bulldozer) because of her tendency to plow through and over things in her way. She was dysregulated and did not have a firm grasp on day versus night, and was pushy and bossy. As an infant, she had cried a lot. They were both sure that Cam thought his sister’s full given name was “God Dammit Luna”. My jaw hit the floor as they talked so negatively and bitterly about this beautiful and spunky-sweet 2.5 year old toddler.
Camaro, on the other hand, they said, really was something special. He was sweet, loving, demure, entertaining, and they had fought hard to keep him alive throughout his first 4 years. He came out of the womb ill with an infection, seizures, and suffered a stroke during or near the time of birth. He had a cleft palate, tethered frenulum, and was less than responsive due to a whole host of various medical concerns. He spent the first 3 weeks of life in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Initially abandoned by his biological parents, they returned after many days and were caught feeding their newborn and desperately ill infant a lollipop. Sly and Patty bristled on Camaro’s behalf when talking about the biological parents. Not so much when it came to their behaviors with Luna.
Due to Cam’s intense medical needs and physical delicacy, he did not have any unsupervised visitation with his biological parents as the case with Child Protective Services went on. Luna was not so lucky. She had much unsupervised time with them and was repeatedly exposed to drug dealers, alcohol, and squalor that included floors riddled with human and animal feces.
It was an ugly story of human depravity told by 2 fast talking people with rummy eyes, loud voices, and evil cackles that only ceased when they took long drags of their cigarettes. In truth, after at least 13 hours of this chaos, I was both relieved and reluctant to leave the children. I drove to the beach to catch my breath.
By the following morning, however, it was still clear to me that these were my children and that they were a package deal – regardless of who was legally up for adoption, and who was not. I went to the spiffiest toy store I could find and bought them each a stuffed animal to be sitting on their beds when they moved in – whenever that may be. I also spent a good deal of that day in tears. Luna was to be moved to a different foster home the next morning and the siblings would be split up for the first time in their lives. With limited language and no understanding or explanation of what and why things were changing, they would have no knowledge of whether or not they would ever see each other again. This action felt like anything but “the best interest of the child(ren).”
On Monday morning, Camaro went off to daycare. Sly went to work. Patty went shopping. Luna stayed home with the babysitter. A caseworker came to the house and picked up both Luna and a large black garbage bag full of all of her toys and clothing. He took her to a new foster home with a new foster mother and a selection of other children. And there she stayed for the next 10 weeks.