Thursday, March 29, 2012


The first weekend, or maybe the second, I take Isaiah to Colorado Springs to meet my family. It was Mother's Day, and my family had reservations for lunch. The pictures of that day show Isaiah, a stocky little guy in a brown and gold plaid shirt and khaki pants, clutching my hand, as I introduce him to my mom,  sister Betsy and her husband, Paul, my high school aged niece and nephew- Greg and Megan, and my other sister, Nancy, and her partner, Dee.

I remember only snippets from that day. I do remember, though, helping Isaiah order from the children's menu. The menu, as I remember it, was a typical kids' menu- hamburgers, grilled cheese, and chicken nuggets. Isaiah asked for pepperoni pizza.

The waiter brought the pizza to the table. It wasn't anything fancy, a kids' pizza on a  dinner plate, with a fruit garnish. Isaiah, however, was totally enthralled. When the waiter set the pizza down in front of him, he looked at it, then looked at me.

"Is this all for me?" he asked. "I get to eat all of this?"

In fact, eating was a theme that was threaded throughout that entire first summer. There had been signs for several years that the boys were not getting enough to it. Isaiah would always go back for seconds and thirds in the school cafeteria. His second grade teacher sent him to the office more than once for hiding food in his desk. Kadeem was a skinny, wiry little guy. I did not even begin to understand the severity of their hunger.

Shortly after the boys came to live with me, I took them to dinner at their favorite restaurant, a buffet. They had never eaten in restaurants and I was trying to ease them into a few niceties of life. We ate at this particular buffet every couple of weeks because there was a wide variety of food and an ice cream machine that served as a perfect incentive for doing a good job during the meal. The buffet thing meant that the boys didn't have to sit still for more than a few minutes at a time.

This particular night, we were driving to the restaurant. Kadeem commented that he was really hungry, and I assured him that we would be eating in just a few minutes. He turned to Isaiah and said, "Do you remember how sometimes at Teresa's (previous foster mom, not her real name) we would get so hungry that we would shake?"

Isaiah said he remembered. Kadeem continued, "Do you remember your legs would just shake and shake and you would feel like you were going to fall down?"

My heart broke then, as it would many more times, for my sweet, sweet boys.

Despite my continuous reassurances, the boys seemed unable to believe that there would always be plenty to eat at our house. I have never been a great cook, and breakfast at our house was usually pretty simple-- cereal, bagels, toast, etc. Those first few months, Kadeem's choice was always microwave pancakes.

He didn't, however, eat one or two servings of pancakes. Instead, my skinny little seven-year-old would sit with his fork in one hand, knife in the other, and consume an entire box of microwave pancakes. Every. single. morning. I did not understand until much later that the boys thought that they needed to eat a lot at breakfast because there might not be food later on in the day.

Even now, after nine years of plenty of food, the boys, and especially Kadeem, get nervous if our cupboards start to look a little bare. "Don't you need to go to the store?" Kadeem will say. My boys remember, all too well, the days of not enough.


Janet said...

I love the title of your post and the way you used it to tie a ribbon onto your story. It was a gift to me, tied in a bow. Thank you so much for the reminder of just how thankful I should be.

Anonymous said...

I have heard stories of such deprivation, and honestly wonder how much of it goes on with my own students. Your boys may never feel totally secure in that next meal...even though you have shown them that there will always be plenty to eat. I love the stories of your boys.

Katie Dicesare said...

I too have thoroughly enjoyed reading your posts about your boys. I thank you for sharing your stories with us and helping me to just begin to understand your journey.

Katherine Sokolowski said...

Man, I hate that any child has to ever go through hunger like this. Thanks for the wonderful reminder of how blessed I am.

Karen said...

Carol, no wonder you heart broke a little. I don't have the love and investment you have with your two boys, and my heart broke reading your slice. To never know if there would be food for an entire day -- how incredibly much I take for granted. Once again I am struck by how the boys were meant to be with you. These stories that you are writing will be so appreciated by them someday.

Cathy said...

Another beautiful slice about your amazing boys. It's nice to hear about the beginning days of your family. Once again your descriptions make me feel like I am rich there with you. The picture of Isaiah when he first met your family, Kadeem eating an entire box of microwave pancakes, and the discussion as they remember being hungry all make me feel like I am a part of your story. I find I want to reach out to hug your boys to let them know there will always be enough food. However, I know it's not that simple and that life has few guarantees.

Thank you for sharing these stories, Carol. They truly touch the heart.


Linda B said...

I will echo all the words above, Carol. Your stories are touching, yet not surprising. I think all of you are blessed to have each other. You care for the boys, but I'm sure your life has been so much richer for them coming into your life too. Two of my nephews are from foster home or orphanage backgrounds with similar circumstances & had some eating worries all their growing up years. They are doing well now, but make sure their families have plenty-both are dads now. Thanks Carol for the reminder of our own blessings.

Mary Lee said...

You are a force for good in the world. I knew it before, but I keep getting more and more sure of it.