Ah, Child Number Three who is a mixture of Oldest Daughter and Youngest Child. The night she was born, I had a terrible dream about two opposing forces battling over my little sister and her newborn baby. It seemed as if Evil would triumph, but I came into the dream praying out loud and Evil fled. The angel who survived told me the little girl was not destined to be bound by the family curses that directed my sister’s footsteps into alcohol, drugs, sex and addictions.
I had a vague notion that my sister (who lived several hundred miles away, physically, and light years away emotionally) was pregnant, but I had no idea when she was due to give birth. So when my foster sister called to tell me that Chrystal had been born (to my sister), I was a little bit surprised. I was not surprised that she was a girl: I already knew that.
Chrystal was almost nine years old when her mother died of necrotizing faciitis (flesh eating bacteria). I had seen Chrystal three times in her life before then, all since my mother died and during trips to Nevada to visit my father: not exactly a close relationship or an aunt a child could attach herself to. But when I arrived for the funeral, Chryssi sat beside me, holding my hand and biting back the tears she determined she would not cry.
We didn’t know what to do with my sister’s children. Her oldest was an adult, but not in any position to take on his siblings. Chrystal’s father was murdered in an alley behind a bar on a cold Hallowe’en night and no one knew much about him beyond his name and that my sister had a restraining order out on him. Chrys’s little brother was picked up from the funeral reception by his biological father: that rather settled where he was going to live. Her little sister had an absentee father that no one seemed to know anything about except that he paid child support and he told my sister’s widower that he could keep the little girl. At first, we thought we should leave the family as intact as possible and we left Chrystal with her new step-father and with a promise that she could come visit us in far away Oregon the following summer.
Two sets of plans were drawn up and neither party consulted the other. My father and I planned that once we got Chrystal into the state of Oregon, I would find a lawyer and work on getting guardianship papers drawn up. To reach that end, my dad paid her step grandmother to bring her up here for a visit. The step grandmother was clueless that Chrystal would not be returned to Nevada.
The other set of plans was drawn up inside the mind of a very stubborn and determined ten year old girl. She was running away from her step dad, even if that meant living with an aunt she barely knew. She was going to ask us if we would keep her. Even if it meant leaving behind her little sister and her little brother. Even if it meant leaving her grandfather and the only town she knew.
Taking on someone else’s child can be a challenge. They come already programmed and you missed all those teachable moments of their preschool years. They come with baggage: in this case, we took on a little girl who had not once cried since her mother died. Sometimes, she remembers things, but most of the time, she buries it: the pit bull fights to the death in the yard, the drinking, the beds that never had sheets on them – those things she remembers. What she doesn’t remember: I am not certain I want to know.
I was told she would be a “fail to thrive” child because she was so tiny. HA! I knew I was tiny when I was her age and had no doubt that she would grow. And she has. She has grown more stubborn and more opinionated. She’s determined to live her life the way she wants to. And she’s talented. If we could ever get her to focus her talent.
I never thought I would have a heart child and never imagined what it would feel like, but here she is. I didn’t give birth to her, but I knew the moment she came into the world. I knew long before she was conceived that she would come to live with us, even though I did not “know” that in a cognitive sense. I dreamed it in a dream.
It’s kind of “funny” (odd, unusual, different), but I have “known” much about my children long before I knew my children. And they all have the same attributes that make me both proud of (and frustrated with) them. This is Chrystal Dawn: my namesake, for all that. Chrystal has faced greater obstacles than a lot of kids her age.
One of her favorite stories to tell is of the day she was sitting in a class listening to some other girl bemoan her fate in life between her divorced parents. When Chrystal made a comment, the girl snapped something about the fact that Chrystal lived with her parents. Chrys dead-panned. “No, I don’t. I live with my aunt and uncle. MY parents are dead. But you don’t see me sitting here throwing a pity party.”