Sardonic Sistah Says

Observations… Ruminations… Ponderances… & Rants from Another Perspective

Reaching Awiti

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She looks at me shyly; sometimes she waves.  She waits as patiently as she can for her sisters to finish surfing the web.  Usually they are there for three to four hours.  By the end of the second hour she gets restless and we attempt a liberation as I encourage them to take her to the children’s department for a while.  Sometimes her teen sisters comply, although they do so with an attitude.  Sometimes they pretend not to hear us.

The little girl, let’s call her Awiti, just turned four years old.  From the first time she entered our department we noticed how smart she was.  I read a children’s book to her and, trying to remember everything I read to her, she retold the story to me, although adding a few embellishments.  Her older siblings have no interest in taking her downstairs; we have the better computers in our department and the Children’s department won’t allow unattended children her age.  So Awiti is stuck. Sometimes playing on the computer herself until she gets so tired and cranky that we tell them all to leave.  Take her home, we say.  Try again another day.

Yesterday my coworker went to one of the sisters and told her that the children’s department would be having a story hour in a half an hour and she thought that Awiti would like it.  Take her down to it, my coworker said.  It’ll be good for her.

But that meant the second oldest would have to give up her computer, which she didn’t want to do.  The oldest definitely didn’t either.  So when the time came my coworker called over to her to remind her of the time and the program.  The second oldest ignored her.

Two hours later a woman comes in and waves to me.  She looks familiar but I can’t place her.  She walks over to the Awiti and her sister and talks to them.  I think she looks like them, she looks young.  Perhaps she is an aunt.  She comes over and talks to me.

“You don’t remember me, do you?” she asks.

I admit I don’t.  She tells me her name is Alanna and I instantly remember who she is.  I haven’t seen her since she was an impetulant teen that my best friend Vee got custody of over a decade ago and only two kids.  I can’t remember why Alanna moved in with Vee but I remember she was more than Vee and her bible could handle.  She was defiant and headstrong, later capitulating and sincere.  She wanted to change, but couldn’t change.  I remembered her as a rueful teen.

“Don’t believe a word she says,” Vee tells me tonight when I called her up to tell her that I ran into her.  “She lies all the time.  Even my niece has washed her hands of her.”

Which is saying something.  Her niece is just as forgiving as Vee, always looking for the bright side of things.  Vee’s niece is the same age as Alanna.  Alanna asked Vee’s niece to take her to the store to buy a birthday gift for one of her daughters.  Vee’s sister, a notorious shoplifter, accompanied them as they went from store to store.  At the last store as Vee’s niece stood in line she noticed store security following her mother and Alanna out the door.  It appears Vee’s sister and Alanna had went on a shoplifting spree and were caught dead to rights.  As the guard took them back inside Alanna decided to implicate Vee’s niece in the theft, saying that she was also shoplifting and the stolen goods in her car were things she stole.

Vee said her niece was so hurt.  She was used to being wary of taking her mother shopping (although time and time again she goes with her) but the betrayal by Alanna cut her to the quick.  “They had (my sister) and Alanna on store tape shoplifting.  They didn’t have any evidence that (Vee’s niece) shoplifted, so they let her go.  So now she and Alanna fell out.  I’ve told her to stop talking to her mother, too, but she won’t listen to me.”

Alanna didn’t tell me any of this when I saw her.  She just said she hadn’t seen Vee’s niece in a while.  She said she came to my department to check on her kids.  She pointed to Awiti and her sisters and I am surprised.  I didn’t recognize the girls, but I haven’t seen them since they were Awiti’s age, barely out of diapers.  She now has seven kids, six girls one boy ranging in age from 4 to 15.  At this point my heart breaks.  What chance is there for Awiti?

Alanna says she wants to move back to New York.  Why?  Because it’s fun, but she is unsure if she will becasue she got into a bit of trouble up there?  What trouble?  I decided not to ask.  But her oldest child is going into the 10th grade and wants to stay in the high school she’s enrolled in.  It’s one of the few good public schools that we have in the city. 

Alanna said her kids really loved the place I work at (although I’ve never seen them pick up a book) and she wanted to know why sometimes we kick the kids down to the children’s department sometimes.  She said her girls don’t like the children’s department because the computers are slow.  I explained how the department is just for kids 12-18 and that she, like other young kids, are welcome to stay as long as they aren’t running around or crying.

“That’s not Awiti,” she said.  “She’s good; if they put her on a computer she’ll just play on the Barbie site for hours,” she added with pride.

That’s not true.  I’ve seen Awiti get bored after two hours but lately she has stopped crying when she was ready for a change.  I’m not sure what caused the change but she seems more lethargic waiting for her sisters to finish.

I wanted to tell her that Awiti is smart and with the right stimulus she can be reading in the year.  She could probably go far if someone could just read to her on a regular basis, talk to her and show her things.  I see the potential for greatness.

I don’t share this with her, though.  Instead I just tell her, “Awiti is a really good little girl.  She’s very smart.”

“All her daughters are smart,” Vee also tells me tonight. I told her that they were giving us problems in the department and she wasn’t surprised.  “They are wild.” she said plainly.  I had originally called her to see if she could give me a tip on how to approach Alanna so I can really help Awiti.  It didn’t seem like that was an option.

She tells me that the girls have a good reason for being wild.  Alanna has never fully become a stable mother after having a child at 16.  Vee suspects that, aside from shoplifting, Alanna is getting money illegally.  I told her that Alanna told me she works as a nursing assistant but Vee highly doubted it.

“She doesn’t work,” Vee said.  Alanna is also prone to drama. “She called the girls while they were in church one day to tell them to come straight home because her live-in boyfriend pulled shot at her.  You should have seen those poor babies, weeping in the back of the church worrying about their mother.  That was the last time they came to church, too.”

So no, I guess I wont’ be able to enlist Alanna in getting Awiti to read early. And I’m unsure of what to do.

Awiti was there tonight with her sisters and brother.  Now that I know they are Alanna’s I can see her in all her kids.  The oldest one is tall, willowy, and pretty the way Alanna looked when she first had her.  The 2nd oldest is short but thin, the third is tall like the oldest but has a solid rectangular frame.  The fourth girl looks just like the second oldest and boy is handsome.  The younger ones look like the babies when they were toddlers.  But Awiti stands out.  She has a shy demeanor and big, sad expressive eyes.  She talks like she’s older, I thought she was five or six when I first met her.  I wonder if the older girls can survive their teen years without getting pregnant like their mother?  Only time will tell.

Ten mintues before closing the oldest girls get a big rowdy.  My coworker looks over at them and mumbles that she is tired of them.  She eyes them warily.  But now that I know a bit of their backstory I can’t share her sentiment like I normally would.  Would I be any better if Alanna was my mother?  Would I have a chance?

As they leave Awiti barely waves and gives a half hearted smile.  We scare her now, I believe, because we give them rules and aren’t flexible.  I feel sad for her as I watch her go.  She’s following behind her sisters, for better or worse; closely she trails their footsteps and they leave the building to find their way home by streetlights.


Written by rentec

24 July, 2008 at 5:48 am

Posted in blogging

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