I could not remember the name of the seventh dwarf. Neither could Joe. But they did not care. All six of the little eyes that were staring at us from their bunk beds at Emily’s Place were rapt. The bedtime story was Snow White—or as much of it as Joe and I could piece together from memory. Down the hall Kelly and Whitney were tenaciously patting the back of a three year old who was not at all happy about bedtime. Claire was rocking a sweet little two year old that could neither see nor hear, but could sure wiggle and squirm. Amy was downstairs with the “big girls” who were having none of this “same bedtime as the little kids” stuff. Nine kids, safe in beds that they knew would be theirs tomorrow–in a beautiful house where they would not be woken in the night by sounds of violence–were ours for the night.
The Mom’s–all survivors of domestic violence who are transforming their lives at Emily’s Place–got a last minute opportunity to dress up in sparkly clothes and go to a Christmas celebration at Abundant Life Church. Someone needed to babysit.
Claire rallied the troops of the Emily’s Place Club at Bishop Lynch and a crew of high school seniors wound their way through five o’clock traffic to meet nine great kids.
It was one of those beautiful December evenings in Texas where you can play outside bare armed under a sherbet sky so, we ditched the cartoon channel for swings and slides and balls and nets. No better way to get acquainted than “push me higher”, “watch me hang upside down”, and “throw it to me”. It was quickly clear that Joe would be the human jungle gym for the evening. Kids dripped off of him every time he sat down. They hung on his head, sat in his lap and pulled at his waist—all at the same time.
Claire proved herself to be a champion wrangler with little Dwayne who had all the energy of any two year old but not all the working senses. That boy loved to be held and Claire did that non-stop for five hours. Watching him eat pizza made us giggle as he stuffed his mouth so full that he looked like a squirrel storing nuts in his cheeks. Kelly, Whitney and Amy pushed swings, slid down slides, and rescued stranded gymnasts from the daring positions they got into but could not quite get out of.
When we realized bedtime was in the cards chaos ensued. Where are your jammies? Do you need to brush your teeth? Is your homework finished? Which one of these is your room? And then the cycle started. Tell me a story, read me a book, can I have a drink of water?
I peeked in on Joe, free-wheeling through his make shift version of Jack in the Beanstalk and heard him saying “And Jack’s aunt said ’Jack, where ya been ya fool?’” Was there even an Aunt in Jack in the Beanstalk?
What a wild ride it was with five big-hearted teenagers using their wits to survive bedtime with toddles and tweens.
Come ten o’clock a car full of beautiful women came in the door, carrying their high heels and gift bags talking about their evening of “food for the soul”. Every one of them thanked us but the truth is Christmas started for us on December 10 this year and not a single package was wrapped.
We left that place pooped out and feeling exactly what we are supposed to feel at Christmas. Blessed by the child that came to love and be loved by us.