As I sat in Mrs. Boatman’s second grade class room, patiently waiting for my name to be called as my sweet teacher took role of students present that day, I doodled on a blank sheet of paper little images I had seen in some magazine in my grandfather’s home. Was it really true? Could Gail’s home be my new home now too? Would I REALLY never be allowed to see my mommy again? A tear escaped my eye and fell to smear the images I had drawn…
Still waiting, I thought of that horrible day they came and took me away from her. It had only been a week ago… The longing for my mommy caused more tears to escape ever so quietly. I saw in my mind the seven cop cars pulling one by one into the yard in front of our single wide trailer house, lights on and sirens loud. I saw them get out of the cars and walk towards our door. That pretty girl who told me she was my older sister was with them. I liked her, but I still felt scared.
For a moment, sitting in that comfortable classroom, I felt tightness clench my scrawny body. Fear stung my heart from the memory of knowing nothing good could come from cops being there at our home. Cops were BAD. My daddy taught me that very well. I ran around our dirty trailer trying to find clothes to put on my baby brother and myself so they wouldn’t see our nakedness. I knew we should be wearing clothes, but my mommy never made us. It wasn’t important to her. Clothing was optional because so often we had nothing clean or the right size to wear.
The banging on the door made me jump and I started crying desperately. I ran to my mommy and screamed at her when I saw the blank look on her beautiful, somewhat sunburned face. “Cops and that woman are here, Mommy!! Pleeeease WAKE UP!!! I continued begging her to wake up, slightly shaking her frail shoulders that were only bones in my little hands. Even though her eyes were wide open staring straight ahead, I knew she was gone, asleep in her confused head… The blank stare was not new to me at all. She was gone to some other world, a world I wish I could visit with her. Right at that moment, as I shook her, I needed her with me AWAKE right there.
She was sleeping all the time with her beautiful blue eyes open these days…. It had been months since we had electricity and running water in our home. My daddy had once again disappeared. I knew, even at seven years old, the reality of the stress my mommy had to bear. She couldn’t feed us, so I was sneaking home food from school each day. She would smile, with tears in her eyes, at the gifts of food I brought home to share.
As I was shaking her, the cops came into our unbearably hot home on that festering August day in Oklahoma. Bobby, my four year old baby brother, was not scared. He went to that woman, Robin, who called to him. He believed she was our sister, but I had my doubts about her. I DID NOT trust that woman with the smile. I knew she had lied to me when she said she cared. She had tricked us, and now she had come to steal us away! That was my mommy’s worst fear, her worst nightmare, and it was very clear the nightmare was coming true on that very day.
I refused to go, clinging desperately to my mommy’s neck. She still didn’t wake up with my death grip around her neck, so I was growing so unbelievably scared. I clung to her, but they ripped me easily from her neck and carried me kicking and screaming to one of the cars with the flashing lights in our yard. Were they taking me to JAIL??? I felt fear creep through me because I had been stealing food from my school day after day after day. I was caught, and going to jail, I just knew!!!
Suddenly, I felt a hand on my tiny shoulder. It was Mrs. Boatman sweetly saying, “Honey, will you come to the hall with me? I have something I think I need to explain to you.”. I got up, wiping a remaining tear from my puffy cheek and followed my beautiful teacher out the classroom door. She gently began to talk.
“I’m not sure how to tell you this, dear… Your name is not Mary Catherine anymore. You will go by Lail Ann now. Your grandpa and older sister think that name suits you well. I think it’s very pretty too. Do you understand?”
DO YOU KNOW ME?
Mary Catherine Lail-Ann “Ruppel” Haynes
(taken away in 1983)
I was trying so hard to find my stolen identity…
(pictured below: 2nd, 3rd and 4th grade)
The secrets behind that smile, some will never know…