Orphan Train


There are so many thoughts swirling through my mind today, and they all come back to Maxwell. Today Josephine celebrates her second month of life. She is as cute as a button and big as a bear. I understand that she was born at nearly 11 pounds, but I would lay money on the fact that she is 16 pounds today. Her 2-month appointment is next week, and I look forward to her stats.

So, if today is Josephine’s big day, how do I continue to circle around back to Maxwell? It’s simple. As each day is simple. And it’s simply this, every day I reflect on Maxwell’s milestones and compare them to where Josephine is today.

Is that okay? I don’t know. It’s hard to know because they are close in age, and just as I was recovering from our first year with Maxwell, we find out we’re pregnant with Josephine.

It’s hard to go from watching one baby slowly die, be revived, and fight every day for his life for months on end. After he makes it, you still watch him. Daily. Fiercely protecting the very air he breathes.

Once out of the hospital, you gladly sacrifice sleep as his apnea mat, tucked protectively under his crib’s mattress, ticks methodically soothing your very spirit. The very tick keeping you awake is the same tick keeping you sane. There you have to find your balance between sleep and sanity. And that’s when you realize that sanity wins because sleep eludes you so that you can continue to hear that tick, tick, tick, tick.

Because there is the tick, you know that your son lives another moment. He is with you. The sun has set, he is sleeping, and you have made it through another day. A day with him. You should be sleeping to prepare for the next day, but you can’t. Tick, tick, tick, tick.

And then it’s hard to find out you have another little one coming.

You become a tornado of emotions. Joy being the forefront followed closely by fear. Joy. Fear. Joy. Fear. And sometimes they mesh together and you don’t know where one begins and the other ends.

That’s when you have to make a decision. To stop. To stop living in fear and to focus on joy. But it’s harder than that single word, Stop.

I just finished reading an amazing book, Orphan Train, by Christina Baker Kline. It parallels the stories of two girls that go through the foster care system during drastically different times of American history. One, Vivian, goes through during a time of immigration in our country followed by the Great Depression. The second, Molly, is in present-day foster care. Their lives differ. Their lives imitate. One is 91. One is 17. Decades may separate who they are, but circumstances resonate who they are.

And it is in this book that I saw a bit of where I am. Who I am. And why I am. Today.

Vivian is asked a metaphorical question by Molly. Does she believes in ghosts? It is then that Vivian pauses before she responds. And her answer is simple, “Yes…They’re the ones that haunt us. The ones that left us behind.”

Later in the book there comes a part when Molly is pondering over Vivian, her statement, and her life. And Molly has finally understood what Vivian had to say, coming to this conclusion, “…Vivian has come back to the idea that the people who matter in our lives stay with us, haunting our most ordinary moments. They’re with us in the grocery store, as we turn a corner, chat with a friend. They rise up through the pavement; we absorb them through our soles.”

Bam! It’s ironic that on the very day that I am rejoicing upon Josephine’s second month of life and mourning where Maxwell was at that exact moment in his life, that I read this passage.

Today I am in a car, driving to the mountains, to spend quality time with family during Sprint Break. Happy 2nd-month of life, Josephine.

With Maxwell, I was in a hospital, sanitizing every ounce of my being, still having to put on full hospital garb, mask, and booties, while finding myself fortunate that I could grasp his very finger. That his finger still pulsated with life. Very weak, unstable life. But life. Praying to God that one day he would make it out of where he was. Happy 2nd month of life, Maxwell.

Vivian didn’t believe in literal ghosts, but the way that Christina Baker Kline describes the weight of Vivian’s past and the people that traveled with her daily in who she was and how she lived reminded me exactly of where I am today.

Celebrating Josephine. Reflecting on Maxwell. Intertwined. Forever.

I will never be the same person. Woman. Wife. Mother.

I will never be the same human being.

I watched my son take his last breath. I ran into the hospital’s hall screaming for anyone to come and help bring him back to life. He was revived. After that it was a waiting game. A waiting game for life.

And a year and a half later as we celebrate Josephine, I remain haunted by Maxwell.

His life has made me who I am today.

A different woman. A different wife. A different mother.

Fear. Joy. Fear. Joy. Fear. Joy. When will it stop?

It stops long enough for me to celebrate Josephine while playing peek-a-boo in the mirror with Max.

For God does not give us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

2 Timothy 1:7

Why you, Mommy, should surrender to your pirates.

My life.  Pirated.  All the way.

Gangplank.  I’m on it.  I turn, slowly, back to face the ship and its crew, and I see them.

The pirates.  All larger than life and ferocious.


Okay.  Okay.

They’re little and cute.

And their giggles are high-pitched.  And their singing is out of tune.  And their smiles would melt the staunch-iest of staunchest Scrooge’s heart.

Yet they are daily in my life.  Turning it inside out and upside down.

Let me give you two examples:  Books; Baths.

Before I was ever a mommy, my most favorite things in the whole wide world were books and baths.  And, best of all, a good book while taking a long, lounging bath.  With bath salts.  With bubbles.  With candles and dim lighting.  All night just to soak, smile, and enjoy.

But as I stand on that gangplank and look back at those little pirates, I am reminded about two things.  Two of their favorite things:  Books; Baths.

While I have Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline on my nightstand, I have these on my couch:


They take up an entire sitting space.  But not too much space that a little one-year-old can’t squeeze next to the books and climb excitedly in my lap.

Then we pick up the books, often the same, repetitively, and read with great excitement Tumble BumbleThe Big Red BarnLittle Blue TruckRoom on the Broom-just to name a few.  We read them.  Daily.  With great excitement.  And I get as excited as Maxwell when he spies a duck for the gazillionth time and says “Quack, quack.”  Or when he picks up Tumble Bumble and yells, with his pacifier teeming on the tongue of his mouth, “Tumble, tumble!” Which then leads me into a practical poetry recitation of the book, throwing my arms up at the end and yelling, “Hooray” alongside my little pirate, diapered-bottom boy!

Adelyne.  Well, let’s put this in a Brooke equation:  Adelyne + Books = What?

Let’s just say, Adelyne plus books equals nearly a half million words read in one semester of school.  You should know that she just barely left her 7th year 3 weeks ago.  Yep.  I need not say Adelyne loves books as much as momma.  But I should say that she possibly loves them more.

Therefore, if my book, Orphan Train, stays shelved for months yet to come but their books are daily unearthed, read, and spines on books such as The Bobbsey Twins, How to Eat Fried Worms, and Diaries of a Wimpy Kid are opened and bent and worn and loved, then so be it!  My book can sit a little longer and gather dust as long as their books are thrown wildly into the air, caught, and read, allowing them to escape into another adventure of their imaginations.

I love books.  And now my children love books.

The pirates can have my time.  And my books.  Any day.

But let’s move along to baths…

Ah.  Baths are the perfect invention for relaxation.  How did I not realize that they would be stripped from me the moment our first child, Adelyne, cannonballed into our lives?  Hmmm.  I guess I am a little slow on some things.

But looking back, while standing on the gangplank, memories flash through my mind.  One of the latest baths by my two little pirates.  The waves were enormous, frothing, and cascading.  But my pirates stayed afloat with giggles.  They had pirated my bath but opened the treasure chest of my heart.  And they just seemed to be having way too much fun.  Their daddy took the bubbles in his hand, lifted his lips near them, tilting his head northernly and blew.  Bubbles were sent cascading into the air while the two naked, bathing pirates shouted, “Snow!  Snow!”  Lifting bubbles to their lips and doing the same.

Bubble snow, naked babies, giggles, and memories.  Invaluable valuables that are irreplaceable.  Especially as Mother Time continues to tick.  Every second of every minute of every hour of every day, refusing to stop for anyone or anything.

Therefore, my baths.  They can pirate them at any moment of any day.  Gladly!


Pirates.  Standing on the gangplank of mommyhood and looking at the boat of pirate children in front of me, I have come to the conclusion that if the gangplank means that I sacrifice what I once loved most to give those same things to those I love most, then I’ll walk that gangplank and give up everything.  Everything but love.

Mommies, I challenge you to do the same thing, too.

Walk the plank.  You’ll be glad you do.