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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Christmas Gifts (11/13/08)

TITLE: Unwrapping Layers of Love
By Marlene Bonney


Ten-year-old Mandy stomped up the stairs to her newly appointed room, slamming the door behind her, it’s vibrations echoing through the house. It was a nice house, big and clean and neat with brand new children’s toys and games and clothing and a set of foster parents who seemed okay—but she would have none of it!

Danny, her eight-year old brother, and Christy, six years old, were still downstairs, awed by decorating the gigantic lighted Christmas tree and helping the lady mix up cookie batter. She heard the deep, soothing voice of the man as he introduced the two dogs, Butter and Peanuts, to her siblings and reconsidered joining them. She LOVED pets. She still remembered her golden retriever puppy, Papoose, with longing—a long-ago given, received, and buried gift from her real parents.

Bah! FOSTER parents! How she hated those words!

“I know, I know. Mom and Dad fight a lot and we get scared when he gets drunk,” which also brought to mind the times she and Danny and Christy had gone to bed hungry, their stomachs growling in tandem as they tried to warm each other’s bodies in the single shared bed.

Wants and love-starved needs and hunger spun around in her mind like the fair’s Tilt-a-Whirl while she tried to make sense of her present situation. The social worker, Mrs. Caris, had told the children they would not be returning home this, the umpteenth time they had been removed from their parents’ custody. Now, the ‘Parental Rights’ had been ‘terminated’ and the children were to eventually be adopted by these strangers. There would be no more scheduled weekly visits to their original home as in the past. Angrily, Mandy punched the pink & lavender pillow, trying to dissolve her malice.

“I don’t want a new school! I don’t want everything to change AGAIN!” she cried wretchedly into the chenille bedspread the lady had let her pick out at the store. A soft knock on her door startled the miserable girl.

“Go away!”

“Mandy, may I come in, please? I have something to show you.”

Curiosity won, and Mandy, tear-streaked and disheveled, opened the door. The lady had a small, padded wicker basket covered with a tiny blanket. Soft little cries and mewing and movement underneath.

“Here, Mandy. These are for you. We know you don’t care about all the wrapped Christmas presents under the tree with your name on them, but this is extra-special.”

Mandy peeked under the covering where three newborn baby kittens were plaintively crying.

“Oh, you cute little things,” cooed Mandy, her anger temporarily melting.

“We thought you might like to name them, dear. My husband, Stan, found them in the corner of the shed this morning when he was out doing yard work. Poor things! For some reason, their mother deserted them. They really need someone to feed and care for them, and we thought you might like that responsibility.”

“They’re so darling! But, how do I feed them?”

The lady brought forth a miniature baby bottle filled with milk with a cloth thumb at the end, along with a “How To Care For Newborn Kittens” book tucked under her arm.

“Do you want me to help you this first time? Perhaps we could learn together, since I have never done this before, either?”

And, thus the young foster child and the first-time foster mother began bonding in a rather unique way that evening. A couple of hours later after the kittens were settled, a mollified and much calmer Mandy joined the rest of the family for supper, the mouth-watering smells having drifted up through her bedroom register.

“Hey, Mand, we left some ornaments and icicles for you to put on tree, see?” Dan and Christy led her over to the spectacular sight.

“Thanks, guys.”

Thus began a new life for Mandy and her siblings. She missed her real parents, but the longer she showered her love into those kittens and saw the tenderness and growing love between the children and these new, subsequent adoptive parents, the hazier the first years of her life became.

It was only then that Mandy began to realize, as thousands of children before and after her, that God had truly rescued her from very emotionally and physically damaging circumstances. And that perhaps her real parents had loved her the only way they knew how because they themselves were so messed up.

And, that was the best Christmas present she ever received.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Jo Ann Schlicker11/20/08
That is a lovely story for the Christmas Season. Merry Christmas and thank you. J
Beth LaBuff 11/24/08
This is such heartwarming and tender story for the Christmas season. Being a cat lover, I loved the gift of baby kittens. :)
Sharon Kane11/25/08
You set the scene of emotional deprivation masterfully. The line about the children's stomachs growling in tandem was almost physically painful. And then all the tension melted away as love and tenderness entered their lives. What amazing wisdom the foster mother showed in bringing in the kittens. I loved this. Thanks for writing.
Deborah Porter 11/27/08
Marlene, in case you don't see the Highest Rankings each week, I just wanted to let you know that you did very well in the Challenge this week. Even though you didn't quite make it into the winners' circle, you made it into the highest rankings for Level 3, placing 13th for the level.

The competition is always extremely intense in Level 3, so well done. Keep up the great writing.

If you would like to check the highest rankings for yourself, you can see them here:


With love, Deb (Challenge Coordinator)