PART 2 of 2
Hi Baby. I love you. We were going to “be nice” to a foster care agency last month, but we pushed it to this 9th when another sweet friend, Robin Feuerborn told us of an event that McCaleb Homes was hosting. It was a Christmas party for Aunt RoRo and “Unka Thomas’s” neighborhood, and it just so “happened” to be benefitting kids in foster care. It also just so “happened” to be scheduled for Dec. 9th, so she wanted to include you.
It was an extremely thoughtful invitation, but I will be truthful and tell you that at first I didn’t want to do it. A shiny, red fire truck, Santa, Christmas infused games, and perfectly-placed decorations would be there, but you, our happiest little boy would not. No, that was too much for my heart to have to power through. We would sell everything we own if it meant we could take you to see Santa and watch the wonder and innocence in your face. We would treasure even a few more minutes to watch you climb up in a fire truck like you did at “Touch-a-Truck,” or in Vancouver, when a tanker parked along the Seawall waited for you to explore. We would’ve asked to hold you and peek out the window a little longer so Daddy could get more pictures. We would’ve tried to freeze the image of you staring at the uniformed fire fighter who squatted down and gave you “fives” and the gold “junior fire fighter” sticker badge you wore so proudly on your shirt. If we would’ve known your second birthday would be your last, we would’ve driven to more than one station on your special day, and made sure to find one that was open. No, this was not fair.
Selfishly, we wish we were still taking you to all kinds of fun events all around town. We miss you, Booger Bear. It is still too hard for Mommy and Daddy’s heart to celebrate holidays without you. We normally avoid themes that make us wish even more that we were still watching a magical world through your eyes. Still, festivities are everywhere and we can’t hide from the fact that Christmas without you hurts.
“No. Thank you for thinking of us, but no.” That’s what I wanted to say to Robin, but that is not how the story was written. We knew this was not just another series of “coincidences,” but rather your way of showing up to guide us and to do something big for you.
Aunt Annie had already surprised us by sending 10 backpacks for our project, and our dentist, Dr. Willingham had already agreed to provide toothbrushes. This event was happening and we were going to do our part in trying to give kids more than a trash bag to carry their belongings from house-to-house.
We never talked about kids in foster care, so maybe you are wondering what that means. Google’s definition of “foster” is “to encourage or promote the development of (something, typically something regarded as good)” or “bring up (a child that is not one's own by birth).” This is another concept I didn’t think we needed to explain until you were older, but one we thought you would want to share your love and kindness. When I read it, it also reminded me of Joseph in the Christmas story.
Baby Boy, you lived with your mommy and daddy your whole life, but some kids (in fact 11,000 just in our state) don’t get that option. There are lots of reasons why kids don’t always live with their parents, but each of them has their unique challenges. Sometimes mommies and daddies get so sick that they have to have other people help take care of their kids. Other times the parents know their kids would have a better life living with someone else. However, one of the hardest for Mommy to understand is when parents’ destructive behavior and temptations cloud everything else. Some kids have had to live with a parent they thought they could trust, but who end up hurting them. They are left confused and many even feel like it is their fault.
Sometimes kids go live with another family just for a little while, and other times, they are there for years. I know you were an exceptionally friendly little boy, but I imagine if something happened to Mommy and Daddy, you would've still been really scared to have to go live with someone you just met.
Many times, when a child has to move in with a new family, they grab whatever they can quickly stuff into a trash bag. It is the most practical way to hurriedly leave a bad situation, but waiting for a safe place to live while sitting next to a garbage bag can make a kid feel like they are left out with the trash, too.
So, on to the happy part of the story!
It took a whole community, but together we were able to buy 50 backpacks, which means 50 kids who will immediately have something other than a flimsy piece of plastic to call their own!
Every backpack had a pair of socks, a book, some kind of activity pad or coloring book with crayons, a pencil, shampoo, conditioner, a comb, toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, Kleenex, a stuffed animal, and a handwritten note of encouragement. The younger kids also got a vroom vroom and the big kids got a stick of deodorant. We know it won’t fix a broken family, but we hope each bag brings a few of the basics and a little bit of comfort to a less than ideal situation.
Mommy is also very happy to report that the Christmas party was a tremendous success! The Edmond Fire Department and Edmond Kiwanis brought Santa to the neighborhood in the fire truck and lots of little girls and boys got to have their picture taken while they told him how nice they have been all year. Those boys and girls also brought a mountain of presents that went with the backpacks to Angels Foster Care. There was a huge turnout! You could barely even see the floor or the bed because there were so many gifts!
Your cousin, Hailee got to participate this month, so we put her to work manning the “pin the nose on Rudolph” station. Mommy was next to her as kids your age tried to toss their rings onto the blown-up antler contraption I was wearing on my head. There was a little boy that reminded me of you who was so excited when he got one of his rings caught onto my antler that he jumped up and gave me a hug. I knew if you were here, you guys would have played together and made a chocolate chip mess all over your faces.
It was still difficult to see the other toddlers climbing into the fire truck and to tell Santa why we were there, but we held it together for the most part. I wanted to go outside and tell the fire fighters “thank you,” but I knew that would make Mommy too emotional. Maybe they will read it here and realize even more what events like yesterday can mean to a family.
Please let everyone who made this event possible and who helped us spread The Caleb Effect know how grateful we are to have been included. Numerous new friends got to learn about you and many more will be hugging their kids and grandkids tighter. As we have said many times, tomorrow is not guaranteed and we never know when an evening surrounded by the ones we love will be the last.
What we DO know is that we will continue to make the decision to let your light and beautiful life shine above our own desolation. We will smile through the tears and embrace the extra hug when doubts creep in. We will keep facing every day trying to be more like you, and we will share your doses of kindness even if it feels like it’s not enough. You were always enough for us, Little Man.
How lucky were we that we got to encourage and promote the development of someone everyone regards as good.
Your first Christmas outfit was right. “Best gift ever.” Caleb, you will always be the best gift we’ve ever received. We hope all the angels are being the best foster parents for us until we have you, our perfect gift, back in our arms.
I love you. I always will.
A very special thanks to the following for making this event possible:
McCaleb Homes-volunteers and funding for backpacks
Robin Feuerborn-funding for backpacks
Annie Lindo-donation of backpacks
Bittersweet Design Boutique-event flyer
Stephanie Timmermeyer-50 “Savannah Finds a Lovey” books and super soft “loveys”
Fairfield Inn & Suites Oklahoma City Yukon-Shampoo, conditioner, combs
Compass Coffeehouse-coffee and hot cocoa
Angels Foster Family Network OKC-hope to brave kids
Edmond Kiwanis-Santa on a Fire Truck
Edmond Fire Department, Government-Santa on a Fire Truck
Willingham and Reiter, D.D.S.-toothbrushes, toothpaste and floss