I shortened my breath, pulled through a stack of clean laundry, flung hangars aside searching. I had to find it. Today I must, I knew, wear that vest. My favorite, I have had it for years. Tears streaming, hiccuping with emotion, desperate for the comfort, familiarity. Lost, It has to be here. Sweats, wool sox, foggy outside, a cotton long sleeved layered up. But that vest…..Oh there you are. I slip in one arm then another, zip up, slowly like you do with those brass metal zippers. I has that good zip sound, deep like shuffling a deck of cards. I put it on and am protected. Ready for whatever hard thing that’s coming next.
It’s my writing vest, especially when I know I am tackling a difficult scene. My vest, the one I bought at a feed and tack store over twenty years ago, is dark green, quilted, lightly filled. Tattered. Its been through it all. It may have been made for horseback riding. I see a tiny horse on the zipper pull.
I wore it on trails, I wore it when I was afraid. Afraid of everything some days. Out there in the woods, trying to escape the demons.
Today I will go back to Your daddy and step-mom’s house. Tackle stacks of papers, dirty clothes, old food, broken toys and rodent droppings. I’ll wear gloves, a mask and take my bottle of disinfectant. You live here all the time. You manage mask-less, no vest, no gloves. How do you do it? You just do, right? You are a kid. You cope.
Yesterday a social worker came to your house when I was cleaning, Auntie Robin was washing the dishes. Most of the stuff from the house was outside covered by tarps, bags and bags in the dump run pile. She saw a different house than your mommy and daddy left. She saw counters, floors and medications stored away. She heard from someone that you and your sister and brother were living in squalor, that you lived with rodents, their droppings, ate spoiled food and that mommy and daddy’s medicines were not secure. All of that was true. And my sister and I worked hard to make it go away this week. We scrubbed and sorted and I am doing more today.
I am washing your clothes, loads and loads of them. I am polishing the floors, sweeping away the rodent poo and cobwebs. I am covering for your step mom. SAnd Dad. He is in a little trouble with CPS. He will have to do better for you. He knows and has a hard time following the rules. Mommy knows too.
She said she was sorry.
When they come back I will have rules, too. Rules about cleanliness, safety and reasonable expectations. I know mommy is going to have a hard time out of the hospital, but she will get used to it. She will get stronger. She will need your help. And so will daddy. But remember they are the grown ups. It is their job to keep you safe, healthy and growing strong and smarter. Your job is to be kind to your sister, your bother, and parents. Love them and yourself. Play, pick up after yourself and feed the chickens. I can help. But only for awhile, then I have to rest. And as long as I wear my vest I can be a super hero. For you. gma