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.