“What sane person could live in this world and not be crazy?” ~ Ursula K. Le Guin
One of my many fond memories was when mom used to let me skip school every once-in-awhile, so we could just hang out together for the day. We’d watch TV, make cookies, go shopping, hang out or grab a bite at Grant’s lunch counter in downtown Dover. Grant’s had THE BEST hot dogs, the kind with those squared-off buns which they’d grill with a bit of butter on the delicious toasty bun. To wash it down, Grants had the tastiest icy-cold strawberry thick shakes. Mmmm…lunch at Grant’s was the icing on the cake when you get to play hooky with ma for the day!
I liked being the only child, loved my own space and I did really enjoy my independence (yeah, I probably enjoyed all of the attention too). When I was finishing up seventh grade change was coming, as mom and dad made the decision to try out foster care to take care of local children in need. I guess it was the right thing to do — they loved kids, I was getting older, and we did have a pretty decent size four bedroom Colonial.
I really couldn’t be bothered with the whole foster kid process, I was about to be thirteen – a teenager! I do remember the social worker from the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) meeting with the guidance counselor at my middle school to see if I acted nuts in class, was abused at home, or on the fast track to becoming a wayward Dover youth. Mom and dad were interviewed and background checked, so apparently they passed the requirements. Luckily for mom and dad DYFS did not have a “road test” on their roster. Not that they did anything wrong, of course, they are great and loving parents, but I think we all could have been classified as a bit “off” in a fun crazy kinda way.
We had the Whitman’s Sampler “family pack” of about sixteen various foster kids over the years. When I say variety, I mean it. The Romano family welcomed deaf ones, crazy ones, semi-retarded ones, babies, black, white, mocha, girls, boys, you name it — they were part of our looney spaghetti-and-meatball eating Italian family for a time! Some stayed for only a few weeks, others for months to years — and two are still family to this day. Each comes complete with their own story, and a couple of those stories are pretty heartbreaking, but we’ll get to that much later on.
Our debut foster kids were Victor (eight) & Maria (seven) a local Spanish brother and sister duo. They seemed innocent enough. Victor was thin and lanky with such pretty dark brown eyes – almost black. He has the craziest head of hair too, these chocolate-colored tight curls, which if you pulled a lock out to play, it would stretch out about a foot and snap right back into place with a big BO-ING! Maria was a shy and quiet little girl, with such a cute little Cheshire cat smile. She had a lighter hue of ultra crazy afro hair, which when picked it out would resemble a extra large basketball. She used to like it rolled into two Mickey-Mouse ponytails on the either side of her head. I guess that was her mother’s styling, and what mother she was. Correction: mother f*cker. The reason? Her two kids were with us was because she could not cope and I believe a neighbor called social services. Her “failure to cope” was that of a sadistic bitch, since some of her punishments involved making the kids kneel down on sharp cheese graters, burning their butts with lit cigarettes, holding their hands on a hot stove, and forcing them to sit on a hot radiator – these were punishments for wetting the bed (out of fear I am sure) and God knows what else.
Soon after these two siblings entered our world, so did something we Romano’s were not familiar with (we only understood crazy). This was called Hyperactivity. Yeah, we had loud and drama down pat, but this stepped it up a notch.
(Italian Lesson: hyperactive = iperattivo)
Victor was diagnosed as a “hyperactive” kid and came toting Ritalin pills which were given to him at certain times during the day to keep him less hyper I suppose. What a crock! The second or third day Victor threw one of his “fits” as we called them. He would scream – no SCREEEEEEEEEECH at the top of his lungs, punch his arms and flail his tight little balled-up fists in the air, all while jumping up and down NON-STOP!! It was like he was auditioning to play the Zuni fetish doll (that frenzied, totally mad creature starring in Trilogy of Terror).
WHAT THE?? These fits went on for a few days, weeks, etc., and my mom was told that Victor must stay on his meds, and as foster parents, no hitting or spanking of any child would be tolerated. Luckily for me, mom and dad were not hitters – but they were yellers. In fact, they made yelling their own art form. I recall being yelled at by both of them a few times, and at least one (usually my dad) would chase around the dining room table a few times when I was acting fresh. I think the dining room chases were more to burn off steam, because I don’t recall ever being caught, I think it was more for the show of it, or the thrill of scaring the living sh!t out of me. I wonder what would have happened if they ever really did catch my wise-crackin’ ass!
Eventually, my mom thought this whole scene with Victor was total bullshit, so she she took him by the arm and carried out a much-deserved royal crack on his little hyperactive ass! Needless to say, those crazy Zulu fits stopped, and so did the Ritalin.
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