Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: The Family Home (05/29/08)
TITLE: Home is Where They Send You Next
By Gerald Shuler
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“You look like you could use a friend, Nelson.” The voice was soft. It would have been a good voice for a mother. “Would you like to talk?”
“I’m okay, Mrs. Evans. Thanks though. I was just thinking about...” He let his gaze lower away from Mrs. Evans’ kind eyes. “I was just thinking.”
Mrs. Evans sat down on the edge of his bed. Nelson knew the routine. He had been through it too many times. She was about to tell him everything would work out fine. Don’t give up hope. Stay tough. Keep a good attitude. Then she would let him know their time with him was up. Oh, how he hated clichés.
“Nelson,” Mrs. Evans waited for Nelson to lift his head and look into her eyes again. “You have every right to feel down.” She spoke softly as she put his hand in hers.
“You and Mr. Evans have been really nice to me this week.” Nelson tried to sound sincere but every word seemed to hit the floor with a heavy thud. It didn’t matter. She would never notice. Nobody ever noticed how he really felt.
“Do you remember anything about your parents… your real home?”
The question surprised him, not because he couldn’t remember because he did. All the other foster home ‘parents’ had avoided the subject. It surprised him that Mrs. Evans was willing to challenge him to remember.
“I was only four when my parents…” It was always hard to start. He decided not to talk about the plane crash that took his parents and left him with no home. “I remember some things. Momma baked oatmeal cookies a lot. They were delicious… I can almost smell them now.”
“I love fresh baked oatmeal cookies.”
Nelson waited for the obligatory offer to bake cookies before going back to the orphanage. No offer came. Another surprise.
“Daddy used to work late at night in his office. I don’t remember what he did but I think it had something to do with drawing plans for houses or building or something.” Mrs. Evans was actually listening to him. It felt so refreshing he found himself opening up to memories he had never spoken out loud. “You know what I remember the most? Daddy told me bedtime stories and Momma kissed me goodnight.” He smiled ever so slightly. “Every night.”
“Don’t ever let go of those wonderful memories, Nelson.” Mrs. Evans suddenly hugged him… without any warning. Nelson started to shrink away but, for some unknown reason, he didn’t. Instead he melted into the hug as his memories conjured images of similar hugs from his mother. For a brief eternity he found himself wrapped in the arms of love.
“Could I ask you a question, Mrs. Evans?”
“Of course, Nelson. You can ask me anything.”
Nelson knew it would be hard to keep a manly dry eye but he asked anyway. “Is there something wrong with me?”
Mrs. Evans stood up and faced Nelson. “Nelson Stover,” she said sternly, “there is absolutely nothing wrong with you. Don’t you ever start believing that lie.” She sat back down beside him. “You’re the finest young man I’ve had the pleasure to know. So… no more talk like that, okay?”
Nelson nodded but he still needed to ask the next part. “Why doesn’t anyone want me?” He left it that way. After all, it was what he really wanted to know.
A warm smile grew on Mrs. Evans’ face. “Let’s go talk to Mr. Evans about that.” She took Nelson by the hand and coaxed him to his feet.
Nelson followed her into the kitchen. Cookies were baking in the oven… oatmeal cookies. Mr. Evans had papers spread out on the table and he looked a bit surprised to see Nelson. He started to gather the papers into a folder.
“It’s okay, Ben.” Mrs. Evans put her arm around Nelson. “I think we should let him know what we are trying.”
Nelson looked at one of the papers and tears of joy finally started to flow.
At the top of the page were three words: “Request for Adoption”.
Nelson would finally have a family to love… and a home.
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