Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: HOME (02/07/19)
TITLE: Claire's Forever Home
By Leola Ogle
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She was fifteen before she got her forever home.
She was three the first time she was placed in foster care. By the time she was six, her mother’s parental rights were severed. Life with her mother involved living in a car, crack houses, and in the park. Still, she grieved the loss of her mother.
Her caseworker, Vanessa, placed her in a home with six other foster kids. Wanda was widowed. She wasn’t mean, but she wasn’t loving either. The kids did the housework and cooking. All of them talked about being adopted, having nice parents, and a loving home. Except Claire. Who would want her? She was ugly. Everyone said so. Carrot-colored hair, huge freckles, and buck teeth ugly.
Cute three-year-old Katie was adopted. “Good riddance,” Wanda said. “She was no help.”
When Wanda had a heart attack, they were all sent to other foster homes. Claire was ten then, tall and gangly – as if she wasn’t ugly enough. “Look at me, Claire. You’re not ugly.” Vanessa hugged her and kissed the top of her head.
Vanessa. Claire heard stories about her. She had a son two years older than Claire and a husband in the Army. Sorrow that chilled to the bone was Claire’s constant companion. Longing for love and a real home plagued her daily. In her bleak world, Vanessa was the only person Claire felt truly cared about her.
That changed when Claire was twelve. Vanessa was aloof, distracted. Claire was hurt by Vanessa’s listless unconcern. Then she overheard her foster parents say that Vanessa’s husband was killed in Iraq.
Sympathy flooded Claire but she pushed it aside and embraced her ever-present pity. She didn’t need Vanessa. Then when she was thirteen her foster parents’ oldest son started getting too friendly. The same boy who used to call her ugly now wanted from her what she wasn’t willing to give.
Expecting nothing, she told Vanessa on one of her visits. To Claire’s horror, Vanessa called the parents and son into the room. The denials and accusations from the foster family had reached a crescendo when Vanessa stood and told Claire to pack her stuff, “I’m taking you to another home.”
Vanessa believed her!
She stayed with Vanessa for three days and developed her first crush on her son, Dylan, who was kind and attentive. “I found a teen group home for you,” Vanessa told her on the fourth day. “It’s run by a church, so you’ll have to attend church.”
“I don’t believe in God,” Claire spouted, disappointed about leaving Vanessa’s.
Vanessa glanced at her husband’s picture on the wall, then took Claire’s hand. “Claire, honey, God believes in you.”
Claire liked the group home. Houseparents, Paul and Kathy, were kind and fun. Pastor Mark and his wife, Meredith, visited frequently. Claire was in awe of Meredith who looked like a movie star. She was dumbstruck when Meredith took her under her wing. She took her shopping for cute clothes, got her hair and nails done, and showed her how to apply makeup. “The key with makeup,” Meredith said, “Is to make it look like you have no makeup on.”
Meredith would laugh as she hugged her. And she hugged her often. Meredith made her feel less ugly. “God sees you as perfect and beautiful, Claire. Accept that. But, I believe God gave us resources to use.” Meredith winked then told her they had a dentist friend who was going to fit her for braces.
One day Meredith hugged Claire especially hard. “I’ve always wanted a daughter,” she whispered to Claire. Meredith had three sons all older than Claire.
Could it possibly happen? Claire was afraid to hope.
When she was fourteen, Meredith’s handsome sixteen-year-old son, Matthew, took her to Homecoming Dance. “Did your mom make you take me?” Claire asked, sure she had.
Matthew grinned. “She suggested it, but I do what I want.”
Now – today was her wedding day. Her adoptive mother, Vanessa, stepped into her bedroom, her eyes filled with love. Not only did she get a mother and a forever home, she got an awesome big brother, Dylan.
Claire’s heart swelled with gratitude to God who not only taught her to love herself, He gave her a family, and she was marrying her best friend, Matthew.
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