My visits with Ms. Peacock were still the highlight of my existence even though they rarely included my brother anymore. I had nearly forgotten about my little sister, Joan. The last time I saw her was when I had put a new diaper on her and tucked her in the corner of a room to try to keep her quiet and safe. I didn’t realize that was the last time I would see her until she was nearly 11 years old. Because of her extensive exposure to alcohol from an even earlier age than my brother and I, at the age of 2 she still couldn’t sit up on her own or do any of the things a 2 year old should be able to do. While Bobby and I were just going through detox, she was also in physical therapy, learning how to do things she had not yet been taught by her own mother who was too busy destroying her own mind and body.
One day Ms. Peacock showed up and we didn’t go anywhere at all. We just sat in a little corner of the main hall and talked. She handed me a little box and told me she wanted me to have a special gift from some special people she had met. When I opened the box, it was a set of spinning tops. I had never had a toy of my own before, other than the ones my brother and I picked up at the dump while playing, so I was fascinated by the idea of it being MINE. We were forbidden to claim ownership of anything at the Allen House, so she and I found the safest place we could think of to hide my treasure before she left me we a quick hug and told me she’d be back soon with an even better surprise! What could be better than a toy of my own?? I couldn’t even imagine!
I don’t know how much time passed, but when Ms. Peacock returned, she had a brown paper bag with her and my heart sank. I knew that meant I was going for another home visit, and since there was only one bag, my brother was not going too. She ignored my sadness, gave me a hug, and told be to go find my treasure so I could take it with me. My sadness deepened when I ran to my hiding place and found the box, but it was empty! Could this day get any worse? I ran back to Ms. Peacock crying, but she told me not to worry because the surprise she had for me today was even better.
We sat in silence all the way to the home I was to visit. It was a cuter home than most. It was a little red brick cape cod house on a row of similar houses, each with their own yards and more trees than I had ever seen in one area! There was a pine tree that took up the entire front yard, and I thought it must have gone clear to heaven! I had never seen a tree so tall on any of the city streets where I played.
We were greeted at the door by a lady who invited us to come in. The house was the cleanest place I had ever seen. I was instantly aware that I was starving because it smelled of food as soon as we walked in the door, and not the gross unidentifiable food they served at the Allen House, or Crème of Wheat that I ate constantly at “mother’s.” This smelled GOOD and I didn’t hear anything anyone was saying because I was SO focused on the smells and where they were coming from.
The next thing I knew, this lady left the room and came back with a box like the one Ms. Peacock had given me with the spinning tops in it. She smiled and said that she heard the ones she had sent to me were missing, so she hoped I liked these as much as those. THIS was THAT lady??? Someone had given me a gift before they even MET me! My mind was spinning. I was waiting for the big kids to come out from somewhere as they always did at these visits. I shoved all the chocolate chip cookies I could get into my mouth to make sure that I got my fill before they stormed the kitchen. I couldn’t believe they could resist the smell that filled the house, but I was glad to get first dibs! The 2 ladies turned to me eventually and laughed. One asked me what the hurry was, and I just looked at them, embarrassed to have been caught stuffing my face like some kind of animal. The lady told me to eat all I wanted, but to save some for Bud who would be home around 6 when he got of work.
Ms. Peacock realized what my fear was, and asked me what I thought of being there without any other children. I would be the only child in the home. I have no idea what I said at that point, but I know I was struck with excitement and fear all at once. Excitement that I could EAT, and fear that there would be no one else for the adults to focus on but me. That could be really bad if I couldn’t find a good hiding place. My brother wasn’t there to protect me, so I would have to be smart about this new arrangement. For now, I was going to EAT, so I grabbed another cookie and nodded.
When Ms. Peacock left, she hugged me tight, and I saw tears in her eyes. She told me she had a GOOD feeling about this one, and pleaded with me to try and make it work. She told me it was up to me now and the little Volkswagen backed out of the drive way and she was gone. I took a deep breath and sat down on a little green rocking chair. It was just me and the lady now. I fiddled with the box of spinning tops, not really knowing what to expect next. The lady turned from the door, looked at me and said, “Well, I suppose I better get started fixing dinner! Would you like to help?” DINNER? More food? I once again nodded. She told me to go wash up and join me in the kitchen. I went into the bathroom and found a bar of the best smelling soap I had ever smelled. I rubbed and rubbed until I had a HUGE pile of bubbles in my hands. It was a lot different than the white stuff we had at the Allen House that smelled so bad it burned my nose. This smelled… clean and I loved it! After a while, she came and told me she thought I was probably clean enough, and we walked into the little kitchen where she had started preparing dinner. I stood just inside the door and watched. I wasn’t sure yet if I wanted her to realize I was there. My survival instincts were very confused by this situation.
She didn’t seem to change like the adults usually did when Ms. Peacock left. There were no big kids popping out and staring at me. It was just her and I and those wonder smells that always seemed to be coming from the kitchen. She chatted a little bit while she poured things into pots on the stove. I wasn’t really listening. I was thinking ahead to what it would be like when “Bud” got home. Maybe that’s when she would change. I needed to scope out this house so I knew where the best place was to hide when the time came. I was suddenly brought back into focus when I heard the lady say, “Would that be ok with you Vicki?” I wasn’t accustomed to being called Vicki… My mother had always insisted everyone call me Victoria. I like how Vicki sounded, but I had no idea what the lady had asked me, so I took a chance and nodded, hoping I wasn’t agreeing to something I’d regret. “Good! I know it must seem odd to call me Mom, but I’d want you feel like you can whenever you’re ready and for as long as you choose to. Bud will be thrilled for you to call him Dad too!”
Mom and Dad? What in the world was she talking about? Why would I call them Mom and Dad for the weekend? Maybe this was going to be one of the longer visits that lasted for a week or even a month. I had never been anywhere longer than 3 weeks before. Oh well, at least I got to eat. I didn’t plan on calling anyone Mom & Dad, but I just nodded again and waited for this “Bud” to get home.
When 6 o’clock came, Bud walked in the door, carrying a little black bag. He was dressed in clothes I had only seen strangers wear. I had never known anyone who wore a suit before. He wore a little hat too, and when he took it off, he had black hair on the sides, and barely any on top. He looked at me, and didn’t really smile, but he seemed like he was smiling with his eyes even though he wasn’t with his mouth. The lady said, “Dad, this is Vicki. Vicki this is Bud, or Dad, when you’re ready.”
I just looked at him and said nothing, but he held out his hand and shook my little hand and told me it was nice to meet me. Then he kissed the lady on the mouth briefly, and said, “What’s for dinner mom? It sure smells good!” I don’t think I had ever seen to people act this way before. They seemed to actually like each other. They acted like this was normal behavior, even though Ms. Peacock was no where around. I decided to be sure and watch them closely, but for now… It was time to eat!! I didn’t know how long I was staying here, so I knew not to pass up a meal or a cookie!! I had no idea where I was going to put anymore food since I had eaten so many cookies, but I’d worry about that later too!