Sighing to herself, Claire knelt to tie Teddy’s bright orange shoestrings for about the eighteenth time. Teddy was three and he was fascinated with the whole shoestring tying process so he kept untying them. She finished the final double knot, hoping for the best, and looked up at him. “Teddy, I am NOT tying these again today. Please leave them tied.” He just smiled down at her. Teddy didn’t talk but his forest green eyes always said it all. Frustrated, she shrugged. It was a lost cause.
She stood and ruffled his silky dark- brown hair. “Well go play little man. I know you’ll be back in about fifteen minutes.” Just as she was turning toward the kitchen, four-year-old Olivia came rushing at her legs with a red face and crying loudly. She knelt back down to the little people level. Olivia buried her face into Claire’s chest simply sobbing. All she could make out was that Jack had done something. Five-year old Jack had probably hit or pushed her down again. This was an on-going issue today as well.
She comforted Olivia, patting her on her tiny back and prayed to herself. “Lord, I can’t do this. I can’t go from one child to four overnight. Either send Chelsea back or let someone else…Father, let someone else take them.”
Somewhere inside her, she whispered to the sister who wouldn’t ever be coming back. “Chels, I am sorry, but I just can’t do it.”
Olivia finally pulled away from Claire a little bit and Claire pushed the mass of dark curls off of her wet face. She looked so much like Chelsea. “What’s going on Olivia? What did Jack do now?”
“He pusheded me down.” Her childish voice was still thick with tears. “and it hurted.” Claire looked her over and didn’t see any blood. “Where does it hurt?” Olivia pointed to a place on her leg. Claire inspected it but saw no damage. She hugged Olivia and sent her in search of Teddy.
As Olivia went down the hall towards the playroom, Claire went in search of Jack, her sister’s oldest and now angriest little boy. Just as she got to the hallway, she heard Camry crying, her six-month old. She felt torn in a hundred directions. All she wanted to do was sit down where she was and cry. “Father, I am telling you this is never going to work. We can’t be a family. This can’t be a home. This is just too much. This can’t work!”
Camry got louder. She moved towards the nursery. Before she got there, Camry stopped crying and she heard Jack’s voice. Just outside the door, she heard Jack talking to Camry. “Don’t cry Cami. It’s okay.”
Claire heard Camry’s gurgle and could envision little legs kicking and arms waiving as she listened to Jack. Claire hesitated before going in. Jack continued talking to Camry in his matter of fact little boy voice. “Cami, your mom’s busy right now. She’ll be here as soon as she can. You’ll be okay. Sometimes, mom’s can’t come, but yours can. You just have to be good so she don’t go away. I keep tellin’ Livia she needs to be good so Aunt Claire won’t go away, but all Livia does is cry and fall down. And Teddy will be good if I keep untyin’ his shoes. Just be good Cami so Aunt Claire don’t go away.”
Claire’s heart shattered. From somewhere deep within her, she felt arms reach around and hug her close. A voice warm with love spoke. “This isn’t about a group of people that you can’t take care of. This is about the home that I have given you and the ones who fill it with love. This is little group of additions is now your home.” Then she felt, more than heard, Chelsea saying. “Claire, you can do it. You are their home and you are not alone.”
Claire softly walked into Camry’s room. Jack turned just as she knelt behind him. She pulled him close. “Jack, you don’t have to make everyone good. Your mom didn’t leave because you weren’t good. She just had to go get things ready for you in Heaven. She will always be with you.”
As she hugged him, she knew that things wouldn’t be easy with this group of little folks, but she knew that she would be able to make a home for them because of her Father and her sister.
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