This is not for the faint of heart..
The pictures are coming, but, quite honestly, they're on several phones, and we can't remember who took them. So, for now, I'll just post about the day, the hearts, and the beautiful kids who, for a brief moment in time, felt like a kid is supposed to feel when they pick out their new clothes.
And, while I am sure you may not necessarily need to hear every single detail, I need to share as many as I can remember. I need to remind each of you that WE as a society are indeed responsible to the kids who are a part of our community. These kids deserve a giggle, a hug, a new sweatshirt that smells of dreft rather than someone else's body odor. They are our future, and let us all hope that as they grow, they always remember that little house filled with women hugging all over them as they picked out the perfect outfits and shoes that fit rather than just did the job of covering their feet.
The day went, somewhat, like this. We arrived to the school at 7:30. Our first student was due to shop at 8, so we were hustling. It started with my friend showing up with her homemade butterfly sugar cookies, neatly packaged in their bakery bags, and the hand knit hats. They were neatly placed on the dresser top, next to Lexie's picture. I admit, I stopped for a second and talked to Lex, and told her, that I promised to never let anyone forget that beautiful face looking at me, from my childhood dresser. I knew she was there that very second, because the day went off, just as perfectly as I'd dreamed it would when first thinking of the plan for Lexie's Traveling Closet.
There was an instruction list, and as each assistant shopper (aka some of the besties) arrived to ensure our success, they were directed to read and understand the task would be carried out to the letter. Looks were shared amongst the "helpers," but each understood, for this moment, Lexie's mama bear had a job to do, and there would be no time for mistakes. These were some of the besties, and they know me well enough to know their patience may be tested for the next bit of time. At some point, I apologized to each for being so bossy, but, I think their hearts were so full by then that they had no choice but to accept.
The first student was brought out by Maegan Rae Tolley, the teacher that had worked on this very moment with me for weeks. It required her getting each student's sizes to me so we were assured they left with bags full of awesomeness, just for them. This group of moms, with no idea of what was about to happen, stood in the doorway of Lexie's Traveling Closet and watched the young man walk across the grass, and mentally prepared to make this moment of his day somehow impact his life in a way to help him feel loved, no matter what. The kids came, they were given their prepacked bag which included a new blanket, 2 tshirts, a sweatshirt, socks, & undies in their size, and toiletries. They received a second bag to hold their new treasures, a pair or 2 of shoes, a coat if needed, sweatshirts, pants, and shirts. As Maegan would walk them out, I'd see her eyes tear a bit as she introduced us to this child she had picked to be spoiled by that little trailer full of mamas. I would try not to make direct eye contact with her because I knew it could mean the end of my holding it together. My heart was not only gushing over the kids being able to shop, but also by this teacher. Because of her caring and being so absolutely amazing, I felt these kids stood a chance of surviving. She's stand outside the closet and tell whichever one of us was outside for the moment this child's story. Each story tore at whatever the strings are that somehow hold onto our hearts to our souls.
One boy told us how he needed an over the top warm coat as he walked home from basketball each night. I asked how long of a walk it was. He leaves Clayton about 6 and arrives to the motel about 7:30. I handed him a card and told him to give me a call so we could work on the ride situation. I wanted to put him into the car and whisk him away from this life. Just about the time I doubted my ability to hold it together, he zipped up his new to him coat and told us how warm he felt. I'm not sure, but I think each of us threw extra sweatshirts in his bag. The stories continued. There were sisters that Maegan requested shop together. They were in separate foster homes, so this shopping experience was their chance to spend some time together.
There was the boy who I had written down needed a size 8 shoe, but took off size 11 shoes. I had a moment of panic, crap, I had the wrong sizes up on the shoe rack for him. I didn't have enough size 11s. I was experiencing a mini panic attack. It wasn't going to be perfect. I had screwed this up for this sweet kid. He grabbed the 8s, and one by one put them on. I asked if they felt snug. He said, I can't decide which I like better. I've never had shoes that fit me before. These are my brother's friend's shoes. I always have to have other people's shoes, and they're always too big. He, of course took 2 pairs of shoes.
There would be other teachers who would come out with students, and we'd all do our best to not let the kids see our tear filled eyes. I'm not sure if some were tears of sadness, but I know most were tears of pure joy. I'd do pretty well, until one of Lexie's best friends' mom's walked up, and I just stepped down the stairs and held onto her for dear life.
There was the girl who Maegan requested come in, even though she wasn't on the original list. We had plenty of her size, so we agreed. She arrived and I immediately sent Maegan a text, do not bring anyone until I text you, this is gonna be a while. As we set up her sizes and she swooned over every single thing we picked out, it was clear, she hadn't been spoiled in a VERY long time. She'd open the door and we'd all squeal with approval at how cute she looked in every single outfit. At one point, she whispered that she was having her period, and needed to go to the bathroom RIGHT NOW. Stephen would rush to the store and buy more sanitary supplies, which is a story all of its own. Let me just say, he got the gold star of the day. At the end of the shopping spree, she would feel weak. We had to remind her to eat and drink lots of water. We'd feed her granola bars and vitamin water before she headed back to class. She didn't discuss her period with her mom, as she was worried it would upset her mom, and she needed to keep her mom happy, not upset her. Each of us wanted to bring her home.
There was the girl who told us nobody loved her, but she was ok. Her mom dropped her off at a group foster home and just left her. Her mom's parting words, I just don't love you. Let a group of moms hear that. We all secretly wanted to go find her mom and slap her a few times over. We helped her shop and kept telling her how much we loved her. It would never overcome the hate her mom had told her, but, maybe she would be able to focus on those crazy closet ladies loving me and not focus on, my mom doesn't.
For a brief moment in time, children got to be children. They didn't have to use a voucher to shop and decide what they needed more, shoes or shampoo. They got to be picky and say they hated that color and needed something in blue. They got to try shoes on with new socks. They got to be hugged by a whole lot of moms. They got to feel safe and spoiled and lucky to be here. Even if it was only for that 1/2 hour that they shopped in the little house, created to remember a special angel, they got to be the most important person in a room.
And with that, I sit at the computer, with an end to my post. This goofy idea of providing everything perfectly displayed, as if in a boutique. This idea of spending countless hours washing items that don't quite smell or look clean enough. This little Traveling Closet that was built by love was the biggest baddest closet ever built. If ever anybody said it couldn't, it surprised us all, and IT DID.