November 3, 2014


You have been ours for ten months, and tomorrow, the state will return you to your mother.

Not ours, of course. We know. Foster parents have no rights, not really. Friends and family of foster parents certainly don’t, no matter how many braids we tie, or school assemblies we attend, or baths we draw. I know the words on your spelling list for next week--you’ve been struggling with affect and effect--but it doesn’t matter, because tomorrow you will go home, and though we don’t know it--though we give you our phone numbers and beg you to call, we will never hear from you again.

Look, you whisper, tugging on my arm. At the bottom of the hill, a pair of deer, grazing in the tall grass. Go on, I say, and you drop your jump rope and start slow down the hill, taking long, deliberate steps, eyes wide, memorizing the antlers, the bristled brown fur. Mid-step, your shoe presses on a twig, snapping it, and before you can yell Wait! the deer are gone, clattering into the woods. You trudge back to me, disappointed.

Where’d they go? you ask.
They just got scared, I say. You lean your head on my shoulder.

I never get a chance to tell you about early the next morning, how one deer emerged silent from the gray trees, lowering its head but finding nothing in the spot where you stood -- just broken twigs and flattened leaves, the whole morning wet with baptism.


Photo "Morning Light" provided by Ervins Strauhmanis, via Flickr creative commons license.

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