Four Times

This whole credit card thing still blows my mind, and not for the reason you might expect.

I just find it a bit amazing that the credit card company actually noticed. I’d really love to understand the way the program they use works. I’m such a small customer. I hardly even use my card and I have such a small credit card. I’m just glad they caught it.

Maybe if you knew my story, you’d understand why it doesn’t shock me that my own mother would steal from me.

I was born about a month (maybe more; the details are fuzzy) premature, hooked on deloids, which is a synthetic kind of morphine. It was also one of my mother’s drugs of choice. Heroin is on that list, too.

My grandmother didn’t know I existed until I had already made my appearance post-womb. Her son called Massachusetts from Daytona Beach to let her know that he had become a father.

I don’t know much about what my parents were doing down in Florida, but I do know that much of it was illegal.

When my mother speaks of her childhood, she tells tales of neglect and abuse. Sometimes I wonder how much of it is revisionist, and if it is not, why she chose to perpetuate the cycle. I don’t think we are victims of our raising. I think each of us makes a choice in everything we do.

She chose to continue the cycle. I won’t make that same choice.

I know that I spent early parts of my life living in cars, then with my grandparents, and ultimately, in foster care. The first image my adoptive mother has of me in her mind is a thin, curly-headed toddler in a night gown, wearing only one shoe, being carried by a social worker. I came with no other belongings. Just a nightgown and a single shoe.

I wasn’t yet three, but I remember the fear I felt of being in a new place that first night. In my mind, I see that bunk bed the way my two and a half year old eyes would have seen it.

The fear was real. I couldn’t sleep without dreams bolting me awake. The dreams were so real, I would still see the images when I opened my eyes. Many tactics were employed to get me to sleep. The stress was so bad that when I finally did sleep, I would grind my teeth all night long. When things are especially stressful, even today, I still revert to the grinding. I wake up with pounding pain in my jaw and I know that it’s time to get the mouthguard out again.

Finally, for my third birthday, my sister Donna, about 18 years my senior (she’s my adoptive mother’s daughter) gave me a stuffed animal, named Bakoo. He was had the head of a lion, the body of a leopard, and the trunk of an elephant. He came with a book explaining that he guarded children while they slept and ate their bad dreams.

And I believed. As long as I had Bakoo, I could sleep. He was my constant companion until well after I turned ten. My cousin has him now, and he’s undergone many surgeries to repair torn ears and a dislocated tail. His fur is mangy and his mane is in knots. He’s really showing his 21 years. In stuffed animal years, he must be nearing ninety.

From the fragmented history that I have, along with letters I finally threw away in the lastest move, my parents were both in and out of jail for my entire childhood. When I turned nine, they both signed away their parental rights, and I was adopted. That story is complicated enough for a post all its own, and I’m not sure I could actually write it.

During the time leading up to and following the adoption, bith parents had visiting rights. my father wanted more visits, while my mother barely ever showed for hers. I’m not sure there is a more heartbreaking image than the one I see when I think of myself standing on the proch, my hair in a bow, wondering if I were going to get to see my mommy this time. Maybe the one shoe image, but it’s close.

I saw my father even when he was in prison. I became well acquainted with searches and long, locked down hallways leading to huge rooms filled with tables and bunches of toys.

I think I saw my mother a total of four times from the time I entered foster care, until after my 22nd birthday.

That may have been four times too many.

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9 responses to “Four Times

  1. I won’t make that same choice.

    Well said. My father made the same decision, and that made all the difference in the world.

  2. I would appreciate it if you could get back to me on if you know where to get a bakoo stuffed animal im extremly interested.Thank you very much

  3. I’m sorry, Chantel. I have no idea!

  4. hi,
    my name is jessica. i am not used to these blog things… so i am not sure what to put. but as a lover of an overloved bahkoo. i still cuddle with him when upset and am crying. strangely… i think of it as therapy. i let out all my emotions and then feel a little better while holding this strange little stuffed thingy. i happened to be lucky enough to come across a second bahkoo, (looked brand new and never loved!!), in an old antique shop/consignment shop. i suggest you try there. please let me know how you make out. its good to know that someone else can love a bahkoo. when i was little people used to make fun of my little stuffed friend because he looked funny. i always thought he was cute. good luck in your search.
    jessica

  5. I shit you not. I have 2 Bahkoos that I have had for 18 and 13 years. I got them both in a small bookstore in Kennebunkport, and lived most of my life thinking that I had the only two in the world. I have the book, too. Where did you get your Bahkoo, and do you know of any others out there?-Lizzie

  6. I have had my bakoo for 21 years and I still cuddle with him every night that I can. My poor bakoo is missing an ear, has gone through several haircuts, and even went with me when I got stationed overseas. Bakoo is the best thing ever!

  7. I have been looking for Bahkoo for the last 5 years to replace one for my oldest daughter. She loved her Bahkoo until he was naked of fur. If anyone ever finds another place that has one I hope they pass the info along. God Bless Bahkoo! Does anyone know the name of the writer of the book?

  8. The book “Bah Koo, a bedtime story” was written by Robert V. Rhodes and illustrated by Gary Patterson!!

  9. Hello,
    I am looking for a bahkoo too, i had the book and the stuffed animal as child, and i am now trying to find another one for my daughter, i cant seem to find them anywhere

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