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JUST A PAL

Story ID:2185
Written by:Richard Laurent. Provencher (bio, contact, other stories)
Organization:Retired
Story type:OurEcho Community
Location:Truro Nova Scotia Canada
Year:2007
Person:Richard L. Provencher
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JUST A PAL
(C) Richard L. Provencher

It's not nice to be impolite, but I can't help staring. It’s the people beside me, the Lawrence’s. "Hello," I say kind of shyly. It's the first time we see each other.

"Hi." Mr. runs over and pumps my hand. Almost scares me to death.

"Hi," back I say. It's the second time I speak. My throat is dry and my tongue feels like it’s getting very thick.

"Well, Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence, here he is. Jeremy…Jeremy Wilson." The Children's Aid Worker looks around the room, smiling her approval.

I don't know if I'm supposed to get off my chair again or what. I mean I already shook hands. And I already said, "hi" and "hello." Maybe I should do it again, "Hi...hello?" Sounds sort of stupid but if that's what they want. I'm having a hard time with this. I'm very uncomfortable.

"Jeremy, my name is Ann Lawrence," and the lady comes and gives me a mushy hug. Imagine, from a total stranger. So, I hug her back. Some of her hair tickles my face. This is my first visit with my new foster parents.

And it sure feels different. I look them over. I don't really stare at them or anything. Sort of give them a sideways look, when I pretend to be looking at the Teddy Bear poster on the wall. But I'm really checking them out.

When you're eleven going on twelve, you learn to hide your inside feelings. Like when I’m blamed for starting fights at school. "I didn't do it!" I used to holler. I learned even if I didn't do something, I still got blamed. After a while it didn't matter. I’m no angel, so maybe I did deserve a scolding. I don't know.

“Jeremy, for heaven's sake, I'm tired of you not getting along at school. And when are those notes from your teacher going to stop?" Mom used to wear herself out worrying about me.

"Mom...I'm sorry." I blurted out. But, mom wasn't here. She's at home. She couldn't come today, she felt so bad. Well, in a way it serves her right. I'm the one who has to go to a foster home. Mom said she couldn't handle me anymore. It's not fair.

"I promise I won't pee the bed more than once a week," I say out loud.

"Well yes, that's true enough," the social worker answered shyly. "Jeremy has had a lot of improvements these past two months since he went to live with his aunt and uncle."

"And I won't eat all the sweets in the house," I added. "I'm trying really hard to be good." I better keep quiet. Maybe I said too much already. I don't want the Lawrence's to change their minds. I need to go to their home.

Maybe I can change so my mom and dad will take me back. I remember all that talk...talk between the Children's Aid and my parents, all about me. And then those nosey questions even the crying mostly from mom. There was some from me too. Dad always seemed to go somewhere else when the police and mom talked about me. I know he didn’t want me to go away. I wish he had said something to me before. But he didn't.

"I see you have glasses," Mr. Lawrence said. "You might think this strange, but you look like me when I was your age."

What a nice thing to say, I thought. I adjust my glasses and look at him again. When I stare at someone eye to eye, I raise my head a little. Some people say I'm stuck up when I do this. But, I'm not.

Mrs. Lawrence sure looks pretty. Her husband is sort of bald. She's short. They sit closer beside me. And I answer all kinds of questions, about where I live and how much I like school. “Not much,” I answer. Then the big one, "Are you ready to go today with the Lawrence's?"

I knew the question would finally come. I thought about my answer when I was playing a computer game at my aunt and uncle's. I thought about it at school last week.

And I thought about it when I got in the car to come to the Children’s Aid office today. There were so many times I brought tears to my mom. And my brother said he hated me because I broke his things every time I got upset.

I stared at my new foster parents. They were so quiet. How could I keep my answer from being too excited? I needed somewhere to think things out. Would they understand? I had to show mom and dad I could really change. No more fighting at home, or at school. And I promised myself, no more hurting my brother. I could change. Yes, I know I could.

My hands squish up when I get excited. And, I can hardly sit still when my head is full of thoughts, a new home for a while, new people. The Children's Aid said I could return home one day. In the meantime I could still have visits with my parents. I know it can work out.

"Yes, I want to go to the Lawrence's. Right now. Today." Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence seem really pleased. So does the Children's Aid worker. "Sorry...sorry," I stammer. I hang my head.

"What's wrong Jeremy?" Mrs. Lawrence asks. "We really want you to come live with us."

"Will I become your son?" There I've said it. I worried about that one thing so much. I heard stories about Children's Aid kids never going back to their real parents. But that couldn't be true. Could it? I didn't want to be adopted. Worse still, to never be able to go home.

"No Jeremy, we'll just be your foster parents. You'll be our foster son. How does that sound?"

Sounds OK to me, I think. "Okay," my voice says slowly. I stand up. I want to run away, but I can't. I have to work it out.

"Then after everything works out, you'll go back home," the Children's Aid worker said. "Promise."

I feel better now. Yes I do. Home. It's what I want. After the worker leaves the room, I'm alone with Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence. They come over and give me a great big hug. It’s not so bad. I really feel good now. I wipe my eyes with one finger. I'm not crying, just cleaning out my eyes. I lift up my chin.

"Instead of foster son, can I be just a pal?" I ask.

Note:
The above story is from the viewpoint of a foster son who met my wife, Esther, and I for the first time at the Children's Aid office. I could see his eyes were full of questions: What kind of people are they? Will they like me? Can I change? The story leaped from my fingers. The boy is now a man of 25, who keeps in contact with mom, his siblings and former foster parents, us.

* * *