“Pull it together person, change your voice, is it really worth all that?”
Even while reading the places in old testament, I would wonder, ‘but why angry, God? I mean, why so upset?” even in the case of injustice. And now I know, I had never seen it.
Until the day, I was sitting on the side of a couch so sagging and broken, I had to try and not roll into Dasha sitting next to me. The stark white walls with it’s peeling paint had stacks and stacks of yellow, faded papers roughly jammed into full folders, each one piled onto the next. Medical files, hand written, telling of each child’s impairments, “CP, bent knee, protein deficiency, failure to thrive…” Written and marked, a child’s fate in a few sentences.
I stared into the stern woman’s icy gaze as I smiled, something important I wanted to share with her, and so I began,”We would like to purchase a rocking chair for this floor, just for adoptive parents who are visiting to have a place to sit while they are visiting their…”
I was stopped mid offer.
“No, there is no one here who will rock the babies, we have much too many,” and looked at me, waiting for the expected questions of our specific child’s medical information.
So sudden, slightly harsh to say that no one would rock them, she must have misheard me, so re-smiling, “Oh no, of course, I hear you, it is for parents, who are visitng you see, so that they can have a place to sit while they hold their babies.”
She frowned, “No. We have no room for one. We do not need it.”
She was done with this conversation, which stuck me as odd, and I started to get bothered, and my cheeks began to feel warm. She was done, and I folded my hands.
“Well, what about in the play room?” I ‘offered.’ The obvious solution, to put it in the room where the children don’t go and it won’t be in the way. “I think we could fit it there, it would be our pleasure.”
Dasha shot me a look as the woman folded her arms across her chest, a menacing frown on her carefully painted pink lips, tilting her face back to look at me through slitted eyes.
Sveta started talking, trying to smooth things over when suddenly their words started to fade into a murmur as my ears were filled with the silence of the hall around me, and I slightly turned my head to the empty hall. The hall lined with doors cracked open, not a sound escaping. The silence filled me up, a strange, almost echoing silence, drowning out all else.
And out of the corner of my eye, movement, a flicker through a white door, catching and blocking the light.
Side to side, side to side, rhythmic, side to side, rocking rocking, silent.
Tiny, infant-sized hands gripping the cold, metal rail of it’s crib as she rocked her thin body, putting her weight from foot to foot, staring at the white wall ahead of her. Side to side as her little body worked to comfort herself.
The dull, cold winter air from the window behind the crib made her a gray flickering silhouette, a flicker of movement catching my eye. No one else’s. In this baby house. A house, for babies.
As the silence filled my ears, the silent sounds of the babies, their mouths closed, eyes open, each doing thier own flicker, their bodies taking over for their lack of care, some on hands and knees, back and forth rocking, rocking, comforting themselves, back and forth, side to side. Staring, at the walls, at their mattresses.
The murmuring woman started to take shape in my ears again, as I started to feel hot in my chest, and like my teeth were starting to press against each other. I was no longer smiling. I was starting to feel angry, and I wanted her to hear just one more time what we were offering, and it wasn’t for her.
I could feel anger in my face, “We could buy it at the store, and assemble it here…” I didn’t care, the flicker was the only thing I could see.
Sveta put her hand on my leg.
The woman put her ice blue eyes on me, and I think she may have been very beautiful at one point in her life.
She waited, “What we need are cookies and candy. The children never get these things, you see,” as she threw her hands up in the air at the injustice of it all.
“That,” she looked at my eyes, “is what you can get. Cookies and candy,” and she closed her medical book.
Thoughts and phrases flew through my head, and I felt this strange strength that I wanted to use on the desk as my palms started to sweat. I was angry, and it was taking over my body.
“Great,” I said and I kept my voice low and even, using all my control, “I would love to buy some cookies and candy, heck, maybe even some fruits and vegetables, I mean, you are a doctor, right? But, we could buy all of those in addition to a rocking chair,” as heat filled my chest. “We’ll get it all.”
The answer was no. They denied us the opportunity to offer such a small item of comfort.
I realize that one rocking chair wouldn’t change an institutional setting, I realize that children left in their cribs all day wouldn’t suddenly have the love a family brings, good nutrition, comfort or necessarily interaction due to one piece of new furniture, but I didn’t expect, that even one tiny start, one offering of help, would be denied.
It represented more to me than a no to a free object. It showed me a lack of effort, or desire to change, a pride in a system that isn’t working to raise children, a system set in it’s antiquated ways, despite new research, changes in the knowledge of child development.
And the next day we showed up with food for the kids.
As they rocked their bodies, and reached their skinny, small arms to us up from the sides of their cribs, eyes pleading with us to lift them up, and nothing more.
And we couldn’t do more than buy them some treats before we were ushered out.
And there they still sit, as winter turns to spring. Little flickers.