They told me, when I was old enough to even think to ask, that I was abandoned when I was just a few weeks old. Shadyview Children’s Home took guardianship just a week later. I guess I would have been about a month old. Abandoned. I couldn’t really wrap my seven-year-old mind around the idea. It was too big and, let’s face it, I wasn’t really getting a stellar education at that point. At seven, I could barely recite my ABCs. No way I was going to know the meaning of that 9-letter word.
Shadyview Children’s Home. It wasn’t as nice as it sounds. First of all, there were no views, unless you count the view of the bumper to bumper traffic on 4th Street, which was right outside the windows at the front of the building, or the view of the alley, which was all that you could see from the back. I can’t remember a night when the noise from the cars, four stories below, did not keep me awake. In fact, from the time that I was about one year old, I had to sleep wearing ear plugs, if I was going to sleep at all.
Second of all, there was no shade. How could there be? There wasn’t a tree within a two block radius of Shadyview, and the poles for the telephone wire were barely wide enough to cast a shadow, let alone provide shade. And for as long as I can remember, all I wanted were trees. I longed for forests and cool, dappled sunlight.
The director of the Home, or Head-Mistress Danbury as she liked us to call her--yeah, she was just about as pretentious as that sounds--went on about how I was a mite of a child. Tiny, with a shock of scarlet hair that fell below my shoulders. It was the first strange thing that they noticed about me, but it would not be the last.
“I never saw a child that young with so much hair,” she remembered, clutching nervously at her pearls. Head-Mistress Danbury was always like that. Dramatic and theatrical. The staff at the home named me Bailey, not my parents. It sounded Irish and they figured that was what I must be with all of my red hair. They didn’t even give me a last name….
I asked again when I was twelve. I was still at the home then, but not for much longer. Head Mistress Danbury was still there too. She told the same story with a few new details that I would have been better off never knowing. To this day, I don’t know why Danbury decided it was necessary to share this one little detail with me….They had found me in a dumpster. In the trash.
This time I understood. Abandoned. Thrown away. Unwanted. It made sense. It was kind of the story of my life. Why else would I still be at Shadyview nearly eleven years later, when so many others had come and gone? I was a black mark on Head Mistress Danbury’s record. She prided herself on her 100% placement rate. Until me. For some reason, she could never get any of the perfect couples that walked hand and hand through Shadyview on sunny weekends, looking for the perfect child to complete their perfect picture, to take me home. There was a toughness about me, those people said. An unfriendliness. Couples wanted giggly little girls, I figured out. Not quiet, watchful girls with creepy--yes, I actually heard one of the husbands say that--eyes. Maybe that’s why she told me about the dumpster. Maybe she was angrier than she let on, because I messed up her perfect record.
Maybe I sound a bitter. I am. Or at least, I was…and still am, a little. I have to give them credit. They tried, they really did, with each and every one of us.
I made the mistake of sharing this new information, or at least this newly comprehended information at least, with my bunkmate, Essie, whom I though was a friend. Shadyview wasn’t much, but it was small. We all had our own separate rooms that we only had only share with one other person. Of course, I almost never had to share because there were never any kids my age at the home.
Essie had been Shadyview for a couple of months, ever since her parents died in a plane crash. I felt sorry for her, but at the same time jealous. She had known her parents for thirteen whole years. That was more of a chance than I ever had.
For some reason, we became fast friends. I never made friends with the other orphanage kids. Most of them weren't there long enough to even get to know, really. But Essie was different. I thought we were somehow the same. We were older than most of the other kids.