I ate my carefully prepared and appropriate lunch at my desk, working to finish up a few things on my last day in the office before vacation begins on Sunday. The door buzzer startled me twice, first bringing a delivery from UPS and then bringing the voice of a young woman over the intercom.
"I need to speak to the pastor," she said. "It’s a personal matter."
Out of the elevator they tumbled, a tall slim woman in her mid-twenties and her stockier husband, obviously the father of the two little girls who came in with them, smudge-faced and barefooted. The young mother spilled out their story while the little ones touched everything they could find. This never bothered me, but it worried their mother. The older girl, almost 3, went straight to the little stuffed animals on a shelf, a white cat given to me by The Princess and a lamb I received at my ordination.
I could see that the story she told held truth: too many hours in the car on a trip to research her biological family, a broken transmission that took all the money they had as a cushion to replace, no more money to get home, a 4th of July night spent in that same car when no help proved forthcoming.
Mother and father seemed sober and embarrassed by the situation in which they found themselves. It would take a lot of gas money to get home to South Dakota.
So many people sit in the pastor’s study, asking for help. These two could meet my eyes. These two could shake my hand. Her story held echoes of mine. She asked me about the reunion with my birth family and told me a little about hers. I went to foster care for a short ten days and then to my adoptive parents. She spent half a year being passed from one member of her birth mother’s extended family to another until finally other arrangements had to be made.
We can’t know what happened to us in those weeks and months, not really. Certainly I will never know. Is that ten day void the source of the hungers I have never been able to satisfy?
They are driving now, with the first tank of gas provided by Salvation Army, and the diapers purchased with a grocery store gift card from the Catholic church, and the cash I managed to round up to get them going. They will drive in shifts, these two young people trying so hard to find the place and the people that birthed her, perhaps learning that the real home is the one they are making with the two little ones in their car seats, holding on to a kitty and a lambie while their parents drive through the night.