Friday, June 12, 2009

Ice Cream Prayers

“Mommy, I want some ice cream,” whined three-year-old Matty.

“You know we’re going to have supper soon,” Jeanine Anderson answered wiping her hands on a nearby towel. “Besides we don’t have any ice cream.”

“I want ice cream,” the toddler said defiantly stomping her black patent leather shoes on the while kitchen vinyl.

“Matty, do you want to be sent to your room?”

“Even so, I’ll still want ice cream,” she said arms laced across the pink sleeveless dress.

“Why do you have such nice clothes on anyway,” her mother asked trying to change the subject.

“I’m playing church,” her daughter answered. “And after the preaching, we’re going to eat ice cream.

“You just won’t give up, will you?” her mother said laughing. “I really don’t have any ice cream.”

She watched as the three-year-old began twirling around the kitchen. “Look Mommy, I’m a mixer. I’m going to make some ice cream.”

“Stop that you’re making black marks on the floor,” Jeanine said raising her voice.

“If I can’t have ice cream then I want to eat supper,” the toddler announced.

“We’ll eat as soon as your Dad gets home.”

“But, I’m hungry now.”

“He should be home any minute now,” her mother answered. But inside she had no idea when her husband would be home or where he was for that matter. He could be working late. No probably not. He would have called if he was working late. Maybe he went out for coffee with some of the office gang, Sam and George and . . . Lilly. The very idea made her blood boil. She knew she had no reason to think that John would be interested in the recently divorced office secretary, but circumstances like that always make wives wonder, don’t they? Or maybe he was in an accident and went over a big embankment and down a hill and no one knew where he was and. . . She shook herself and came back to the present.

Her daughter was tugging at her pants leg. “Is it any minute, yet?” the green-eyed girl asked looking up at her mother.

“I’ll tell you what. Why don’t you set the table and you, Buddy and I will go ahead and eat so you can get your bath and be all ready for bed on time.”

“I don’t want to go to bed,” the curly, blonde-haired girl protested stomping her feet again. ”I want to eat supper.”

“That’s what I said we’d do, isn’t it?” Jeanine said with a scowl on her face. “I said we’d eat because I don’t know when your dad will be home.”

“But you said he would be home any minute now,” Matty said still whining. Matty plopped down in the middle of the floor and began to cry. “I don’t want to go to bed. I want to eat supper.”

“As long as you’re down there in the middle of the floor you can take your shoes off and set them over by the door,” Jeanine said trying to keep her cool and get her daughter’s mind on something else. “They’re making black marks all over the floor. Then you can set the table.”

Matty got up slowly being careful not to scrape her shoes against the floor. “I’m sorry, Mommy,” she said taking off her shoes. “I’ll set the table.”

Now she was being the obedient child her mother knew she could be. But she also knew Matty was being compliant now because she was getting her way, she was getting something to eat. How did that happen? She had been totally manipulated by a three-year-old and didn’t even realize it at the time.

Jeanine glanced at Matty who was humming Jesus Loves Me as she sat the table. Her
green eyes sparkled as Jeanine sat the spaghetti, salad and garlic bread on the table. “Spaghetti, my favorite!” she exclaimed.

“Go call your brother and we’ll go ahead and eat,” Jeanine said. “It’s almost 7 as it is.”

Matty skipped off in search of her 8-year-old brother, Buddy. He was a nice big brother, as big brothers go. Sometimes he would let her play with his legos or his hot wheels cars. He’d let her come in his room when no one else was around. But when his friends came over, it was off limits to all girls.

Buddy’s room was at the end of the hall, next to her room. The door was open, but Buddy wasn’t there. “Buddy, Buddy, where are you?” she called just in case she hadn’t spotted him under a pile of clothes somewhere hidden in the room.

The bathroom door was open and her brother wasn’t inside. He wasn’t in the living room watching TV or in the family room playing video games. She opened the back door and called for him again.

“Buddy,” she shouted as loud as her three-year-voice would allow. “Where are you, Buddy?” Then she waited, but all she could hear was the sound of traffic on Lindell Boulevard, the next street over. The quiet had an eery feel to it. It made Matty feel all alone.

“Mommy, Mommy, Mommy,” she cried running into the kitchen. “I can’t find Buddy anywhere. He’s lost. He’s lost for sure. Something terrible has happened to him, I just know it. Buddy’s gone and Daddy’s gone and there’s no one else here. We’re all alone, Mommy, we’re all alone.”

Matty ran full force into Jeanine’s arms and it seemed the little girl’s entire body was sobbing. Giant, wet tears rolled down her face and dripped off her cheek onto Jeanine’s shoulders.

“Hey, Baby, it’s all right, really,” her mother soothed. “I’m sure Buddy is here somewhere and Daddy will be home any minute.”

“But, Mommy, you said that lots of minutes ago and Daddy isn’t home and now Buddy is gone. What will we do?”

Jeanine sat down in a wooden chair at the kitchen table and held her daughter. Gently she rocked her back and forth. As she rocked she began humming Matty’s favorite tune, Jesus Loves Me. In a few minutes, Matty’s sobbing had stopped and mother and daughter simply sat holding each other.

“It’s prayer time at church, Mommy. I’ll lead the praying,” Matty announced continuing on without stopping. “Dear Jesus. Bless Daddy and Buddy and keep them safe and bring them home for supper right away because I’m really hungry. And, Jesus, could you send some ice cream, too?”

Jeanine smiled at her daughter when she finished her prayer and gave her a bear hug. In only seconds, Buddy burst through the kitchen door. “Man, am I hungry. What’s for supper?”

Matty jumped down from her mother’s lap and with her hands on her hips, addressed her brother. “And just where have you been, young man?” Then, softening, she ran to him and hugged him around the waist, “I was so worried about you. I prayed for you and Jesus answered my prayer.”

“Hey Sis, Chill,” he said grinning. “I was just playing ball with the guys down at Adam’s house.”

“Next time, let me know where you’re going,” Jeanine said. “We were concerned about you.”

“Wow, spaghetti, let’s eat,” he said pulling out a chair.

“Surprise!” a voice boomed out from the kitchen door. All three Andersons jumped and turned.

“Daddy,” Matty said running to him. “I’m really glad you’re home. I missed you and Mommy and I prayed you would come home safely.”

“You did, Pumpkin,” John Anderson asked smiling. “That’s really good because there was a really bad accident on the interstate. It had traffic backed up for miles. I had to turn off and take a different route home. It just so happened it took me by Baskin Robbins and I couldn’t help but stop for some...”

“Ice cream!” Mattie screamed.

“A peace offering perhaps,” Jeanine said.

“Perhaps,” he said kissing her lightly on the cheek.

“I tried calling. The phone was busy.”

“I haven’t been on the phone all day,” she said with a puzzled expression on her face.
Matty looked down at the floor.

“Matty have you been playing with the phone?” Jeanine asked.

“I was making important phone calls, Mommy. I was calling for the ice cream delivery man. But God sent him instead when I prayed.”

“Wow, you must have really been praying hard today,” Buddy said. “You prayed for me, Dad and ice cream.”

“Yep,” Matty answered. “I did. And God heard me, too, and answered all my prayers. Amen.”

“Well, young lady,” her dad said swooping her up in his arms. “You and I have to have a talk after supper. I have a few things I’d like you to talk to the Almighty about for me.”

“Anything for you, Daddy,” she said smiling. “And I’ll even pray for Mommy and Buddy’s bequests too.”

“I just have one ‘bequest’ right now,” Buddy said rubbing his stomach. “Could we please eat supper?”

September 14, 2003

September 14, 2003

The banner above the entry read, “Victory House Walk-A-Thon.” She pulled her 1992 blue-rust Toyota into the long driveway. “They paved it,” she thought to herself. “It was gravel the last time I was here.”

She would never forget that date, September 14, 2003, the day her son was born.

A teenage girl was motioning the vehicles into makeshift parking spaces. She was about fifteen years old and at least six months pregnant. Sarah had been eighteen when she arrived at Victory House—scared, unmarried, pregnant, with no purpose or direction in life.

“I have come a ways since then,” she said to herself. Her eye caught the corner of her algebra textbook and she groaned. “Why would a social worker need to know algebra anyway?” But she needed it to graduate and graduate she was going to do, next year, when her son would be five years old.

Parking the car, Sarah turned off the key and waited until the beast’s belly jerked, whined, sputtered, and finally died. She stashed her keys in the front pocket of her dirty khaki backpack, grabbed her jacket, and pulled at the doorknob.

At the registration table she picked up her information packet. The next stop, coffee and donuts. She sat down on a step to eat her breakfast. Marilyn, the director, usually gave a pep talk right before the walk started.

Sarah liked just looking at Marilyn. There was a special twinkle in her brown eyes. When she first came to the house, Sarah was the opposite of Marilyn. Lines had hardened around her blue eyes. Laughter had not been in her vocabulary. But today her eyes sparkled like Marilyn’s. “And I’m happy,” she thought as she looked at the holes in her jeans. “Thanks to Marilyn and Jesus I’m happier than I have ever been. I just wish I knew for sure that . . . that I made the right choice back then.”

The crowd grew. Sarah estimated at least a hundred people. The Walk-A-Thon would do well for Victory House this year.

“Looks like a good group came out today,” a pleasant voice said.

“Uh, yeah,” Sarah said, shielding her eyes from the rising sun.

She looked for the source of the voice; it was a young woman, but several years older than Sarah. Sarah immediately noticed her name-brand sweater, jeans and new Reeboks. A blonde-haired, blue-eyed baby nestled contentedly against her shoulder. His one-piece romper suit probably cost more than Sarah spent in a month on groceries.

Behind her, a man stood dressed in a matching outfit. He pushed a double stroller with bags, blankets, water jug, and a curly-haired toddler. Beside him stood a boy of about four. There was something about the boy that riveted Sarah’s attention.

“I’m Abby,” the woman offered. “That’s Eldon, my husband, and Jerome, my four-year-old. Katie,” she said pointing to the curls in the stroller. “And this little guy is J.D.”

“Sarah,” Sarah offered cautiously.

Marilyn appeared to greet those present, give directions for the walk, and pray with the group. “Dear Lord, send us forth in joy with expectation of having the best day we’ve ever had.” She followed it with a hearty, “Amen.”

Laughter swept the crowd. They knew Marilyn. She believed in good times. People had to laugh around her. It was as contagious as a summer cold, but more welcome.

“I just love that woman,” Sarah said.

“She is special,” Abby said, shaking her head in agreement.

Sarah stood, dusted her hands, and turned to head toward the porch.

“Uh, Sarah,” Abby called, “would you like to walk with us? We could use the help. I mean if you don’t have anyone else to accompany you.”

“Sure. I’ll push the stroller,” Sarah offered.

J.D. napped in the stroller. Katie was more than ready to go and pulling on her mother. Jerome latched on to one of his father’s belt loops and tugged fiercely. “Let’s go, let’s go,” the youngster pleaded.

Jerome and Eldon headed out. Katie began picking up orange and yellow maple leaves. Sarah always enjoyed this walk. Many times while at Victory House, she’d take an early morning walk here daydreaming about the families who might live in the stately homes.

“Sometimes I get frustrated with the kids,” Abby chattered. “But I never question the decisions we made to adopt them. We love them so much.”

Sarah wasn’t surprised the children were adopted. Many of the families at the Walk-A-Thon were comprised of children adopted through Victory House. And, all three of Abby and Eldon’s children looked different. Little J.D. had blonde hair and blue eyes. Katie had curly brown hair and brown eyes. And Jerome had dark hair and green eyes.

“Did you adopt all three at the same time?” Sarah asked.

“No, we got each one as a baby,” Abby said. “We were already approved as foster parents, so we got Jerome right out of the hospital. We didn’t get Katie until she was about a month old. Same with J.D. That extra time with Jerome was special. Almost like I gave birth to him.”

Abby talked nonstop about Jerome. “He was our first,” she said. “I remember everything. We have four photo albums filled with him. Such a great baby. There is no doubt in our minds that he was meant by the Heavenly Father to be our son. I hope I’m not boring you.”

“No, really. You’re not,” Sarah answered. “Tell me more.”

Abby continued to talk about Jerome’s first words and cute things he said and did as a toddler. She even told her about Jerome’s decision to accept Christ last year. They hadn’t let him be baptized yet. They wanted to be sure he understood. But they were very excited about his decision.

As she talked, Sarah began thinking about her son. Forgiveness was something she acknowledged. Accepting it was a different story. It was hard. But her son was living a good life, wasn’t he? If only she knew her baby was with a good Christian family learning about God and being loved.

Jerome and Eldon appeared on the horizon. Jerome had fallen and scraped his knee. He needed a bit of his mother’s TLC, a prayer for healing, and a band-aid from the bag in the stroller. Watching him reminded Sarah of someone from her past, someone she wanted to forget. But there he was again, his eyes, his nose, even his dark hair.

With Jerome’s knee repaired, he and Eldon were once again off and out-distancing the women.

“You’re awfully quiet all of a sudden,” Abby said to Sarah. “What’s on your mind?”

Sarah looked at Abby, the wonderful mother, someone meant to be an excellent mom. Someone she would have chosen herself for her own son. Her son whose father had green eyes and dark hair and a nose just like Jerome's. Could it be? No, it wasn’t possible was it? But she had to know.

“When is Jerome’s birthday?” Sarah asked.

“I think you know the answer to that question,” Abby said.

Sarah was taken aback. “Why would I . . . ?” She stopped and looked at Abby astounded.

Abby said nothing. They were at the end of the walk. Sarah saw Jerome standing with Eldon a few feet away. She turned to Abby and said quietly with tears in her eyes. “September 14, 2003?” Abby smiled and nodded in reply.