Somewhat by happenstance, and certainly not by design, Mary’s garden had been transformed on this particularly rainy September morning. This wasn’t new, as each year the 8-foot by 24-foot plot of land was altered, at the whim of her current and ever-changing household. Mary loved each of her children—she refused to refer to them as “short-term-foster-children,” or whatever the newest correct vernacular was. They were each her babies, with unique relationships cultivated through that garden’s soil and seeds.
She spent nearly every morning in that beautifully terraced oasis, highlighted by a cracked wooden sign with letters carved by her first child, Ethan: “Home.” Though she never required it, each time Mary went to tend her garden, she would always be joined by her children; a vivid assortment of questions, ideas, and laughter. She made sure each of her youths had a plant of their own—she claimed this was to teach them valuable responsibility, but truly it was to amplify their tenderness and care, hidden behind their respective veils.
Though she knew the point of her house was to temporarily hold onto children until a suitable family came forward, even the best and brightest of adoptive families caused bittersweet heartbreak. That was the joyous grief she felt today. Ava, who had spent the last three months with Mary, was in the back seat of an SUV pulling away from the house, starting an adventure with her new and loving family.
An hour passed and the rain had ceased. The sun was peeking through the vibrant colors of a bold but distant rainbow, with a paler twin running its arc. Mary was inside, throwing herself between two of the older boys fighting over a sleeve of cookies. The slamming of car doors caught everyone’s attention, as they looked up through the window to see Ava, running back with some freshly bought Rosemary. “I couldn’t leave without telling you goodbye…and this is the best way I know how.” With tears swelling, Mary watched Ava and her new parents find a spot in the garden, just under the old wooden sign.