Being a foster kid is worse than being on welfare. When you’re on welfare you have your own family. When you’re a foster kid you don’t belong to anyone. The worst part is, what do you call the mother of the house? Mom? The other kids are calling her mom but she’s not your mom. The other foster kids in my foster home called her mom. It took me time. I felt awkward, embarrassed, afraid of rejection, vulnerable and not sure what it would mean for me. This is was my second foster home and the first one was awful. I had to call her mom too. Mrs. Schimmoller TOLD me to call her mom. Wicked holy roller, duplicitous witch who kept my sisters and removed me from the home.
When my mother died on the floor of the house we lived in with her boyfriend Artie, the asshole, the shit storm started. My mother’s brothers came. I was 14, Colleen was 12 and Mary Ann was 9. I don’t remember which of my three uncles came to the roach-infested house in Freeport to get us. The guidance counselor who had driven me home from school had long bee-lined it out of the uncomfortable situation after someone called the police. A wash of adults and authorities. I sat on the couch with my sisters clinging to me. “You’ll take care of us, right? Mommy said you would take care of us.” My head was spinning. I wasn’t living in the house when my mother died. I had been kicked out by Artie after a confrontation two weeks before. That piece of shit. Artie had been trying to abuse me for two years. I’d wake up in the middle of the night and find him trying to slip his hand under my blanket. I’d wake up and go to the bathroom and sit in there for an hour or sometimes two. Sometimes my mother would bang on the door and ask me what I was doing. Some fucking mother. I didn’t want to tell her. So I just went back to bed. He pulled that crap on me lots of times but never got anywhere. I never said anything and neither did he but it made him furious. He did not like me having the upper hand, and that is how he saw it. He was a total asshole. An abusive asshole who hit my mother, though she allowed it. I know that sounds harsh but I can’t understand how she allowed that man to treat her children badly, treat her badly and for what. I digress. Asshole was at work when my mother died and my sisters and I were whisked off in cars. MaryAnn and I were taken to my Uncle Billy’s – my mother’s older brother – and Colleen went to Uncle Tom’s. Uncle Billy was the weird uncle. Really out of his gourd. You couldn’t have a cohesive conversation with him. He became progressively worse as the years went by. He was sort of an outcast of the family, in many ways by his own hand. His wife Nancy was an odd bird too. MaryAnn and I lived with them for about 2 months. Without our knowledge, they planned and attended our mother’s funeral – arranging that the daughters – us – not be permitted to attend. What the fuck. No one told us about this until many days after the event. Nice people. MaryAnn was having a hard time. Crying a lot. MaryAnn was my mother’s favorite. Billy and Nancy were nice to us, just distant – because they were weird. They couldn’t help it. I didn’t see Colleen much during that time. Uncle Tom lived a few towns away and he didn’t socialize with Uncle Billy. Uncle Billy lived like a hermit without the television on, without activities, without books. Just quiet. Uncle Tom’s family life was dynamic full of activities and sound and laughter and I was jealous of Colleen. Not for long. Within a short time a woman with a huge red bouffant hairdo came to Uncle Billy’s house and he called me to the kitchen. Then he left me in the room with her. I don’t remember her name. She asked me if I was ready to go. I had no idea what she was talking about. She said, you mean they didn’t tell you? Those cowards! She was there to take MaryAnn and I away to foster care and my dear Uncle Billy had hidden in another room while she broke the news. He had not even given us a chance to pack. She said, let’s look for some shopping bags – and we found grocery bags. MaryAnn and I packed our clothes up in grocery bags and put them in the back of the social worker’s car and left my uncle’s house without saying goodbye to anyone. There was no one there to say goodbye to. The social worker told me that she was taking me to a home where we would be meeting Colleen. Colleen was being given up for foster care at that same moment too. I wondered if they told her the same. I don’t think so but maybe.
Mrs. Schimmoller seems to be quite the divine woman to take in 3 motherless girls for foster children doesn’t she! She’s a fucking evil witch! These are some of her rules right from the get-go: you don’t get a lock for school until the money comes in from the department ($3.00), foster children are never ever allowed to touch the mail or touch the phone, foster children only get peanut butter and jelly for lunch but the other children can have cold cuts, foster children never, ever help their siblings with homework, foster children are the only ones who do outside chores, it is permissible to divulge personal details about the family lives of foster children to any and all strangers and more. And yet – still, still, go to church every day because these things loving??? Ugh – so of course I opened my mouth, eventually, enough of this bullshit and when I heard her telling someone woman some lie about us, I walked into the room and told her off. Bing, bang, boom…..next day….I’m outta there! Into a group home! The only, only, only sad part was leaving my sisters. That is the only part that was hard. Hard to be apart from them and hard to leave them with that witch.
The group home was a wild rollercoaster. The best part of the group home was that the people in the administrative office saw that I was a good kid who was smart and got good grades so they gave me a job in the office, and then eventually got me a real part time job. I started making good money as a part-time secretary after school and the group home provided transportation for me because I never got into any trouble. I was so happy every time a holiday came or I got to see my sisters and I had a stack of presents for them. I just knew it pissed off that bitch foster mother and I also knew that my sisters were receiving clothing that she would never buy for them – stylish nice clothing that they would never be able to wear if I didn’t get it for them. It grew my heart. I loved working.
I loved the group home. The cast of characters. This was not a juvenile detention center. This was a group home. Some of the kids were just sad. Anthony who was there because his parents abused him even though they came to see him most weekends; Anthony who was 12 and wet his bed every night and had burn marks all over his body where his parents put cigarettes out on him and a huge gash under his chin where they had bashed his face in but Anthony loved his parents and younger sister very much and wanted to go home. I had great affection for my peers, mostly black, living in the group home for reasons unknown to me. So many of them dating each other, so many of them having sex at 14 and 15 even though the house was sectioned off very well between male and female. I was a prude though I had a terrible crush on a black male counselor who played basketball for Hofstra. I enjoyed every friendship I made there. And then they send you on an interview for a foster home…..
I went to meet to the Gerdes family. You know you are not going to stay in a group home forever. Anyway, the school that you are in sucks. If you care about your education, you’d rather be in a different school. You know you need to be in a foster home, so you have to go on an interview. It sucks. You don’t know what to say. If you are Mrs. Schimmoller, you don’t shut the fuck up. If you are Mrs. Gerdes, you try to be kind. Mrs. Gerdes was kind. We decided to give it a shot. Mrs. Gerdes already had a good size family and already had plenty of practice at this – she had two children of her own (a son my age, a daughter 2 years younger), an adopted Korean boy – two girls she had taken into foster care that had returned to their mother. But, Mrs. Gerdes didn’t have a list of rules. She was just kind. We got a long really, really well. I enjoyed my time there for a long, long, long time until I went to college and I started to change. When I started to stretch and change no one liked it much. Here little girl, stay in your corner. Achhhhhh, I’m not comfortable in the corner. So I get up. And no one liked it much.
So I’d get it at the dinner table, you think you’re better than us because you’re in college? You think you know so much? So I stopped talking at the dinner table. Now I get, what’s wrong, you have nothing to say? Damn, there is no winning with these people? They just want to pick a fight with me. I am beginning to become miserable. I am beginning to eat.
I begin to eat in my car when I’m not in class. I go to book store and buy bags and bags of Swedish Fish and Chocolate Non-Pariels. I go back to my car and eat all of them. I decide not to go to my afternoon class but to go to the kosher deli on the way to my after-college job. I buy four knishes. I eat them all in my car. I go to work at the bank as a drive up teller after- hours. I go back to my foster home. I’m nearly 19. I’m getting fat.
I don’t remember what it was, when it was, why it was but it was just before my 19th birthday I moved out. I was still in college. I was still working at the bank part time. I was still binge-eating. I was feeling bad about myself and I decided I had to go. So I left.