“I have no friends. I have nobody.”
The note is scratched in blunt pencil on the inner cover of an old copy of And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street. Little Man picked this book for his bedtime story tonight, and I see this cry for help for the first time. It’s a second hand book that our foster agency brought over in a box of stuff when the kids were first placed with us. It likely originated in another foster home and was given to the agency when the home closed or the children who were placed there moved on.
And to Think That I saw It on Mulberry Street is Dr. Seuss’s first published children story. It’s about a boy named Marco whose father asks him what he sees on his way home from school each day. Marco doesn’t see much, just a horse pulling a wagon, so his imagination takes control. He envisions a wild scene of safari animals pulling a wagon with a big brass band, escorted by a cast of fascinating characters. Marco is alone on his walk, but he isn’t lonely. He has pride in his vision and is looking forward to telling his dad about everything he “saw.” My heart breaks for the child who read this story and felt nothing but solitude; the child who whose pain was so secret he penciled it into the cover of an old book.
There’s so much pain in this process. There’s the initial abuse/neglect, the loss of family, friends and familiar things, the transitioning between foster homes, and often the separation from siblings. It’s a heavy burden for little hearts, and no one should face it alone. You could argue that this child was probably not alone. He was definitely with a foster family, and he had caseworkers and possibly also CASA workers, therapists, teachers, etc. But that doesn’t really matter, because he certainly felt isolated. Marco didn’t really see a parade with elephants and police and a man with a 10 foot beard, but that’s never the less what his story is about.
It’s a message in a bottle, a radio transmission into space, a cry for help into the void. This child is out there somewhere, and I wish he could know that I’ve heard him. God in Heaven, let him know he isn’t alone. Across time and space and by lucky chance, I hear him and I love him and I wish him well.
I squeeze Little Man a little tighter at bedtime and can’t help but whisper to him that he isn’t alone. He looks at me like I’m crazy because in this 1600 sq foot house with four dogs, three kids, two adults and one cat no one is ever alone. He whispers back “I know momma. Love you. Night night.”
I can’t know what pain is in his heart (though I’ve got a good guess), but I know for sure that he will never face it alone.