Linda Wood Rondeau

Snark & Sensibility

WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW
6/10/2019 1:00:00 AM by: CLEO LAMPOS

PLEASE WELCOME

CLEO LAMPOS

TO

HAVING THE PRIME OF MY LIFE

Vernon, my husband of forty-eight years of marriage, drew in a breath and held it. He then slowly exhaled before speaking in his calm manner. “You want to do what?”

It would be difficult for Vernon to appreciate how much my proposed trip to Wisconsin affected my fragile emotional balance. “It is time for me to visit my foster mother. Your support would be an added bonus.”

My family learned about my stint in foster care about ten years ago when I retired from teaching. In all those years, no one questioned why my chosen field in education involved working with foster children, behavior disordered or emotionally challenged students. I was written off as a humanitarian. But the real reason that my time in those classrooms proved effective was due to the indisputable fact that I was one of them. Just older and able to process the experience. My son, both daughters, and husband have come to accept this part of my life with amazement and sadness.

Doris, my foster mother, came back into my life this Christmas.  During the years, I had sent her cards on Mother’s Day with the words “The Other Mother” on them. Not a writer, she never corresponded with me. But this Christmas season, she sent a manila envelope with twelve quilt squares in it. She included a note saying that she knew of my interest in quilting and hoped that I would finish the quilt.  One trip to the fabric store and my husband and I purchased cloth for the backing, sashes, and binding. Several months later, the Christmas quilt lay comfy on our rocker. Doris needed to see this joint effort and feel the smoothness of the cotton as well as the close stitching. Hence, the excuse for the visit.

Christmas quilt made by Doris and Cleo, 2019

After the death of my father, my mother had few resources to help her cope with finances and grief. A Christian, she read her Bible, underlined Scriptures and took us to a Black church on Sunday night where she could sing and pour out her sorrow. Several years into widowhood, she married a man who became an abusive alcoholic, transporting the family from state to state. Neighbors suspected the violence and tried to help my mother. The law gave my sister, mother and me a secret place to hide for a while. But the upshot was that DCFS decided to place us into foster care. My mother was devastated.

On the worst day of her life, when she gave up her daughters to the system, my mother still prayed. And Doris became the answer to her supplication. God brought a young mother, only ten years older than my twelve years, into my life. At 22, Doris lived on a farm with her husband, Merle, and four preschool children. Merle worked the night shift at the auto plant so we seldom saw him.  But, Doris and my “little sisters” became family. It took several months before I felt safe, but going to a one-room country school on a bus, life became secure.

Like anyone who lives on a farm, my sister and I helped Doris with the many chores that needed to be done. Baskets of diapers were folded and stacks. The baby boy wanted a bottle and to be rocked. Stories and games to entertain the preschoolers filled the evenings. Dirty dishes on the counter beckoned us to wash, wipe and put away a day’s worth of eating frenzy. Floors swept, rug vacuumed, sinks scrubbed. Always something to do, and we were old enough to help out.

Perhaps my favorite time in foster care happened in the spring when the cows went into labor. My sister stayed in the house to babysit while Doris and I went into the barn. As a seventh grader, this experience deepened my resolve for natural childbirth as an adult. We delivered several calves for a period of hours. What a soothing experience it was to be able to bring life into the world and witness the instant care and love of a cow for her calf. No amount of therapy could have healed my spirit in the way that this experience did for me.

Eventually, my mother regained custody of my sister and me. I started high school having attended nine different schools in three different states. The fact that I graduated in the top quarter of that class and with honors from college is due to the eventual spiritual healing of mind and soul that God brought through the Word. That is why the teaching of disadvantaged students beckoned to me.

Rescuing children is a common theme for the books that I write. Whether in the series of contemporary fiction based on the Teachers of Diamond Project School, or the historical fiction that I pen, the heroine is saving children. Nonfiction books that bear my name center persons who achieve through perseverance against odds, and the reaching out to children in need. Definitely, writing what I know.

But, I digress.

The visit with Doris in a small rural town in the Midwest settled so many emotions that had been held at bay for many decades. Doris became friends with my mother and over the years visited with her while I was away a college and busy with my family in a distant city. Her memories of foster care were positive. Doris was almost a teenager herself, so my sister and I helped her to escape the loneliness and anxiety of being alone at night with four little children. My husband listened intensely, marveling at the provision of God in my life and that of my mother. The time with Doris has shown that the handprints of the Loving Father are pressed into every phase of my life.

And, yes.  Doris enjoyed wrapping our joint quilt around her and feeling the love.

 

ABOUT CLEO LAMPOS

With a Master’s degree in special education from St. Xavier University in Chicago, Cleo Lampos is a retired school teacher. She has written dozens of magazine articles over the years. Lampos is the author of teacher-oriented books; Teaching Diamonds in the Tough, and a series of contemporary novels depicting the Teachers of Diamond Project School. Rescuing Children tells the stories of people who spent their lives helping to save their era’s youngest generation. Two books on the Dust Bowl and a family-friendly story of a family dealing with Alzheimer’s Disease round out her publications. Living on the south side of Chicago, Lampos is a quilter, speaker at community groups, and canner for her urban gardener husband. As a couple, they work in the community garden for the local food pantries. Church activities and 11 grandchildren take up a lot of their time.

 

ABOUT A MOTHER’S SONG

 

“I love you, Ava Rose,” she whispered. “I love you enough to give you life.”

 

All Irish immigrant Deirdre O’Sullivan has ever wanted is a home and family. But her dreams didn’t include living in a cramped tenement in Five Points, New York, with the disillusioned love of her life. Nor could she have imagined that she’d be torn away from her children. Tragedy strikes and Deirdre gives her children a chance to live and blossom…without her.

On the plains of 1890 Nebraska, homesteaders Sam and Claudine Thompson lose their third baby. Claudine breaks. Then one day as the orphan train rolls into town, Claudine insists, “A baby is out there crying, and he’s crying for me.” Ava Rose, four years old, waits on the platform with her fragile baby brother. They will eventually fulfill the longings of two mothers and begin legacies of hope for others oppressed by poverty and prejudice. A poignant tale of hope and courage against unfathomable odds.

Purchase Link: https://www.amazon.com/Mothers-Song-Story-Orphan-Train-ebook/dp/B01IAPBX7K/

Her historical novel for upper elementary students will be released this summer.

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