The worse part of being a traveller is that you never know how long you will stay with any family. Sometimes it can be a couple of weeks, sometimes a couple of years. If you are lucky, on very rare occasions, travellers find forever families. This is such a rare occasion I try not to think about it.
The House of Joy
The earliest memory I have is being sat on a bus travelling to Leeds. The first family, I remember, sat either side of me. Mrs Jones was a normal mum and she had two children, a boy and a girl. Mrs Jones was a large woman who wore flowery dresses. Both her children had round cherub faces and smiles that went from one side of their face to the other.
As the bus stopped Mrs Jones reached down and grabbed me. Holding me she got off the bus, ensuring we all got off safely. The family home was a ten-minute walk from the bus stop. The children skipped along laughing and joking with each other as we made the journey.
When we arrived at Mrs Jones house she asked her two children to go upstairs and get changed. She left me in the lounge whilst she prepared dinner. Dinner was shepherds pie and the family sat down together to eat. I sat listening to them chatting about their day. The children each told their separate stories about school. Mrs Jones nodded along with their excited voices.
After dinner the three of them cleaned the table, still chatting about their day. The sound of laughter carried everywhere in the house. Once the dishes were done it was family games in the lounge. Another new experience for me. The family played a couple of card games, which I tried to learn the rules for. Once games were over Mrs Jones asked the children to go to bed so she could spend time with me. They kissed her goodnight and raced up the stairs leaving us alone for the first time. Here I spent the next hour alone with Mrs Jones fussing over me.
When Mr Jones came home he smiled and asked his wife, “what have we got here then?”
Mrs Jones introduced us. Mr Jones picked me up in his strong hands. Holding me, he looked at me. This was the first time someone like him had even taken an interest in me. Placing me back into Mrs Jones lap he smiled. He then went into the kitchen to reheat his dinner. Mr and Mrs Jones sat chatting about their day. Laughing at each other’s stories. Once Mr Jones had finished dinner he washed up his plate. They then both took me upstairs, showing me where I was spending the night.
For the next three months, I stayed with the Jones family. I loved being in that house which was always full of laughter and excitement. I wished on more than one occasion they would be my forever family, but it was not to be.
The House of Sorrow
When Mrs Spenser picked me up, I remember that Mrs Jones handed me to her with a hint of sadness in her eyes. She made sure to tell Mrs Spenser several times to look after me. I remember her telling her that when she had got bored with me she would have me back. Maybe, I had found my forever home. Maybe, on the second visit, Mrs Jones would keep me.
Once I got home with Mrs Spenser I realised that this home was in complete contrast to the one I had left. Mrs Spenser was a small thin woman. When she smiled it never travelled to her eyes. As if she knew she had to smile but didn’t want to.
Within the Spenser house, there were four children. One older daughter who was almost grown up and three smaller children. One boy who was a quiet, timid young man with the biggest smile and two girls. The twin girls were both quiet and spent much of their time together. If you watched them. you could see them communicating with each other, never saying a word. I worked out that Mr Spenser had left four years ago and had not been heard of since.
Mrs Spenser spent most of her time shouting or throwing things at her children. They tried very hard to not give Mrs Spenser eye contact. They walked around the house with their shoulders down looking at the floor. On many occasions, Mrs Spenser chose to punish them by hitting them or refusing them food. Whilst I was with them I lost count of the times I listened to the sound of them crying themselves to sleep. This was not a happy home and I missed the laughter and joy of Mrs Jones’. Still, I had to keep in mind that Mrs Jones had wanted me back. I dreamed I could take the Spenser children back with me but, I knew it couldn’t happen. The eldest daughter tried as hard as she could to look after the younger ones, but it was too much for her.
The strangest thing about the family was how Mrs Spenser treated me. With me, she was gentle, loving and caring. Many nights she sent the children to bed so she could spend time with me. She cared for me, cuddled me and treated me with affection. On one occasion she even called me her best friend. I actually enjoyed spending time with Mrs Spenser. That was until the incident.
The incident occurred after I had been with the family for 6 weeks. One night Mrs Spenser came down and found her son playing with me. I was enjoying myself with this small gentle boy. He didn’t hurt me once instead he showed real enjoyment at spending time with me. Mrs Spenser lost her temper when she saw us together. She hit her son so hard around the face I could see the handprint on him for days. She then sent him straight to his room. Kicking him so hard as he walked past I heard her connect with bone. He went to bed that night crying with no food in his stomach. Mrs Spenser carried me into her room and spoilt me like never before. If only I could tell her I didn’t mind being with her young son or if only I had been able to stop her from hurting him. From that moment on I hated spending time with her. Luckily within two weeks, I got that feeling that I was moving on again.
The Old House
Mrs Spenser placed me back at the centre. I wanted to scream at her that Mrs Jones had said she wanted me back. I couldn’t find my voice, this time I stayed in the centre for a month. Resigning myself to the fact I wouldn’t see Mrs Jones again and would never find my forever family.
Mr and Mrs Wagner were my next home and although I missed Mrs Jones I soon began to love my new home. The Wagner’s were an elderly couple in their retirement.
They treated me with great compassion. Every time they went out I went with them. Whether we were on a bus, train or in a car I was always beside them. The love they showed me whilst I was with them was amazing. This, however, did not compare with the love they had for each other.
I found out that the couple had been together for 60 years and yet they still held hands. Mr Wagner bought Mrs Wagner a present every time he left the house. One day it was a bunch of flowers, another day a bag of sweets. He constantly spoilt her asking if she would like a drink or sandwich. This retired policeman treated his wife like a princess. I remember hearing them say I love you to each other before turning the light off, every night.
I had been with them for two months when it turned to summer. I spent a blissful summer with the couple. One day we would sit in the garden just the three of us. Another day we would be going out for ice cream.
Then halfway through summer, the most amazing thing happened. They took me on holiday. My first ever holiday. We went to a quiet seaside town in Spain. During the week I spent the time between the beach and a tiny restaurant on the seafront. I remember how blue the sea was and how the sand ran over me.
Unfortunately, the holiday was towards the end of my time with them. I was looking forward to another holiday away with them next year, but, it wasn’t to be.
Over the holiday it became clear that Mrs Wagner started forgetting things. It started out she couldn’t find her purse, then she left her cardigan in the restaurant. Mr Wagner told her not to worry it was the heat.
When we got home her memory got worse. She would forget the words for some things such as the days of the week or the names for tea and coffee. Over the weeks she forgot things more often. Mr Wagner started staying at home and cancelling his club so he could look after his wife.
One Saturday, he decided that we all needed to get out of the house. He packed all their stuff up in a rucksack and asked Mrs Wagner to take care of me. We went to a local village hall where the church was having a sale. This used to be a favourite activity for Mrs Wagner, we all hoped this would cheer her up.
We arrived at the village hall and started to look around. I don’t remember all the details. One minute I was with the Wagner’s, the next I was sat on my own and couldn’t see them. I stayed there until it was time to close. When no one claimed me I was packed off back to the centre again.
The Young House
When I had given up hope of ever getting out of the centre and finding a forever home Miss Smith came and chose me.
Miss Smith was a single woman with no children. Instead, she did have a large black dog who always seemed to take great interest in me. If I was honest her dog scared me a little. He was always jumping about and knocking furniture over. He had the biggest teeth and when he drank water it dropped everywhere. He never harmed me, but I liked to stay away from him. For her part, Miss Smith was careful to not leave us alone.
Miss Smith had a girlfriend who came over most weekends. She was funny and always made Miss Smith laugh. During these weekends I was more or less ignored, left to sit in a corner on my own. Her girlfriend never showed interest in me.
When she left, Miss Smith always used to pick me up and spend time with me again. We spent many an evening together during the week. I loved these times the two of us snuggled up on the sofa. Sometimes she would watch TV whilst she was with me. On other occasions, she would put everything aside to spend time with me.
The time flew with Miss Smith and apart from the odd weekend, I was thoroughly cared for. I had been there a year, she never seemed to bore of me and would always spend an hour a day with me. I thought I had finally found my forever home.
After eighteen months together things became serious with her girlfriend. They had started spending more and more time together. I had even heard talk of the two of them starting a family. The two of them sat down one evening and decided it was time for them to move in together. I should have realised then what this meant for me. Instead, I was too excited about the prospect of having children to play with.
On the week of the move, the couple spent time combining two households into one. I suppose it was inevitable. There was not enough room for me in her new home. There were a few discussions between the two of them. Miss Smith wanted to keep me. Once again with great shock and sadness, I was returned to the centre. Miss Smith had given in and agreed the new place was too small for me to stay.
My Forever Home?
This time my stay in the centre was even longer. I was now a little older and battered. I wasn’t as attractive as some of the others. Many came after me and left before me. I was beginning to think that instead of finding a forever home I would be destroyed.
When I had given up all hope of moving from the centre. When I was at my lowest, I was collected and taken to a new home. The joy I felt I can not explain.
So you must be wondering where I went next and how my story finishes. Did I find my forever home? Well, that reader is for you to write.
You are holding me in your hands. Where does my story go next? Are you my forever home? If not look after me, add to my story and set me free.
I love you reader.