When the dismissal bell rang, I ran out of my first-grade classroom. I was excited. I was being picked up in carpool today. I almost never was picked up in the carpool line. Every other day, I moped my way to after-school daycare located at the same private school I attended, and I was always one of the last children to be rescued.
Today was different. I was not really sure what the student waiting procedure was for carpool, so I just kind of found a line of kids and hung next to them…but also away from them.
I was expecting to see my stepmother’s car, because she was the one who usually picked me every day. When I saw my dad’s car in the line, I was totally excited, but at the same time, totally fearful.
Why was daddy here? Why did he have to come? I must be in trouble for something. What did I do? I started wracking my brain as each car moved forward and the line I was standing in became smaller. The ONLY reason daddy would come was cause I was IN TROUBLE FOR SOMETHING. But I could not, for the life of me, figure out what it was.
Finally, daddy’s car was at the front of the line and it was my turn to load. The butterflies in my stomach were doing somersaults as I opened the door and sat in the back seat, behind my father.
“How was school today, son?”, my dad said.
I replied, “fine”, because that was always my reply in response to how anything, or anybody was, including myself…fine…always fine….everything is FINE.
My father continued, “Me and your mama got you a surprise today”.
Now I was utterly confused. THIS WAS NOT NORMAL. Nevertheless, surprises were always exciting and a broad smile swept across my six-year old face as my stepmother handed me a box.
I opened the box and inside I found a pair of the most beautiful shoes I had ever seen. They were ‘ruby-red slippers’ just like Dorothy wore in “The Wizard of Oz”. The shoes even had a small heel and the red patent leather twinkled with iridescent, glittery specks.
I immediately removed my socks and shoes which I had worn to school, and put my new shoes on, fastening the tiny buckle which extended across the top of them.
Wow. What an awesome present!!!
I was so enraptured by my new ‘Dorothy shoes’, that the next sentence out of my dad’s mouth took a second to hit my brain.
“Me and your mama went to court today and the judge said you have to start seeing Sue.”
Wait, what? Court? Judge? Sue? Wait, what?
I am not sure I knew what ‘court’ was, I am fairly certain I had my own six-year old conception of what a ‘judge’ was, but it’s possible I had no clue. Sue was my mother….MY REAL MOTHER….I did know that.
The problem was that I did not know Sue.
There was only one story I ever heard about my mother, and my father, step-mom, and grandmother always relayed it to me exactly the same way, every time I asked.
They all said that when I was eighteen months old, Sue came in one day, very angry, looked at my dad and said, “YOU GO UPSTAIRS AND GET SARAH AND YOU TWO GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE”.
My stepmother then began adding her two cents to the conversation, “Sarah, your daddy and I hired the best attorney and we tried really hard for you to not have to see her at all, but the judge said you have to start visiting her.”
I was silent the rest of the ride home.
I was scared to death.
I had never met my mother, that I could remember.
Thank God, for those ruby-red slippers.