By Sonya Laughlin
“Read me a bedtime story, Sister!” she pleaded as I stated for the third time that it was way past her bedtime. Finally, giving in, we snuggled in her little, twin size bed. I had my back up against the headboard, and she was tucked into the crook of my arm. I gave the story my best shot and changed my voice to match the various characters in the story. She constantly cut her eyes over so that she could watch my mouth as all of these strange, animated voices came forth. I was the princess, the wicked step-mother, and the fairy godmother all rolled into one, and she was mesmerized. It was a rather thick book that contained several stories, and no matter how many pages that I read with the preceding statement, “this is the last one!” she would always come back with “just one more and that’s it.”
She would look up at me and grin periodically and seemed to be more interested in me and my silly voices than in the story itself.
Well, being the pushover that I am around these kids, I just kept reading. She would look up at me and grin periodically and seemed to be more interested in me and my silly voices than in the story itself. Then it hit me. She’s not worried about the storyline, she’s interested in me. She wants me to stay as long as I can. Because you see, on that particular night, she was the center of attention. She lay in my arms, as little girls love to do with their mommies, and she was completely content. Only, her mommy wasn’t here, I was just her fill-in mommy for the night. But I learned a long time ago with these children; when your real mommy isn’t there, a fill in will certainly do.
I held her close to me and squeezed her every now and then just to remind her that she was special. After reading two stories and the beginning pages of a third, we said our prayers, gave hugs, and said goodnight. As she drifted off to sleep, her only question was, “will you be here when I wake up?” “No sweetie,” I replied, “Sis. Heckaman will be here in the morning when you wake up.” “But when will you be back?” she questioned. I told her that I wasn’t exactly sure, but that she would have just as much fun with Sis. Heckaman as she had with me, and that seemed to satisfy her and she quickly fell asleep.
Needless to say, I didn’t fall asleep as quickly. I thought about that sweet, little girl well into the night. I can’t imagine how it must feel to know that your mommy doesn’t want you or wasn’t able to care for you or that she cared more about the drugs she needed than about reading stories or playing games with her baby girl. What I did know was that God had blessed me to be a part of this wonderful ministry of surrogates. We function in many capacities; as office workers, cooks, relief houseparents and sometimes even mommies to children that are not our own.
Not all of the stories of Mansion life are this sweet. Sometimes, children come to us with anger issues and lash out at those of us who try to help them, and the anger is certainly understandable given their circumstances. But if I can experience one night like this every so often, it certainly makes up for the occasional meltdown, and makes our work here so worthwhile.