Cherise is a daughter dear to my heart. Here was a child who brought me great joy!
I found her in the CAP book when she was six years old. The second I saw her, I wanted to be her mother. I saw the intelligence sparkling in her beautiful black eyes. She lived in a hospital, with a roomful of profoundly retarded children who could not move or speak. Cherise had normal intelligence. Though I was glad she had been secure, and not bounced from home to home, I couldn't stand it that she had lived in a hospital all her life, simply because of her Cerebral Palsy. My first instinct when I saw Cherise's picture was, "there's my daughter!" I believed she would slip easily into our family, and she certainly did!
We sent pictures of all of us for her to look at. In the group was a picture of Noelle, with one arm around her sister Misty, who was also black, and one arm open, waiting for Cherise to come home! Cherise had been born a preemie, and drug addicted. She had had a difficult start in life. She was a twin, but her twin brother was in much better physical condition, and had been adopted years before. Cherise was still very small. She could not walk, or crawl. She could scoot on her knees, slowly. She could not talk, but she could whisper. As for her color, we received thirteen snapshots, and she was a different shade in every one! That was all I knew until she came home to be my daughter in 1981. I still remember watching every passenger in the airplane get off, and finally, a very tiny wheelchair was brought up from below. At last, at last, my little daughter was wheeled up the ramp to meet me! I still have the tiny dress she was wearing - size three! It was a bit short, but fit her slender form well. Her caseworker brought her. She came home with us, visited us, watched Cherise playing, and laughing, had dinner with us, and left. My eleventh child was home!
Cherise slipped into our family like a sunbeam! She smiled and laughed almost all the time. She was great fun! She had never seen a toilet flush. She had never watched anyone cooking. She had never seen other children who could walk, talk, quarrel, laugh together. She had never seen a telephone. She had never been in a regular bed. She had never been on a picnic. She had never been camping. She had never seen the ocean. I could go on and on. To make a long story short, Cherise loved being a member of a family! And she was a treasure!
The first thing I did the morning after her arrival was to take her into bed with me, to cuddle, talk, and dial "TIME." In those days, a lady would tell you what time it was, over and over as long as you wanted. I'll never forget the amazement on her face, holding the receiver to her ear! I talked to her, telling her how happy I was, that she was home, and she was my own little girl for always. I cuddled her warm, slight little body, and nuzzled against her hair, kissing her cheek. She smiled, and snuggled back.
Cherise could not flush the toilet, but was so fascinated, that I tied a string to the lever, and put a loop in it. She could hang onto it, and pull, and look in (sitting on the floor) as she flushed, over and over and over. I declare, it took her a long time to lose this intense fascination!
Cherise wanted to help cook. I gave her a baggie with a piece of chicken, and shake and bake mix in it. She shook it and shook it, and was so thrilled to dump it (with help) out onto the baking sheet! Eating it was almost as much fun!
Her caseworker had told me she had wanted a family for Cherise, so she could have her own brother to fight with her! Well, she never got a brother to fight with! Her brothers loved her to pieces!
There was nothing that made Cherise giggle harder, than her big brother Kyle pushing her chair around the house! The faster he went, up and down the halls, the more she curled in a ball from giggling!
Cherise was a quiet, very sweet little girl. She smiled and laughed at everything, and was extremely happy. Three or four times in the weeks after she first arrived, she burst into tears with no warning, and could not explain why. I picked her up, and held her on my lap, and she snuggled in. I told her I was sorry if she was missing someone. I knew the nuns at the Catholic Hospital where she had lived, had loved her very much. (And who wouldn't!) Of course she must miss them! They had sent cards, pictures, and evidences of caring very much. It was so wonderful that she had known love. That made her able to love again, and bond securely with us. And she did.
Cherise shared a room with Skyla, her sister close in age. Skyla was a lively, giggly little girl, and the two of them hit it off right away. Cherise absolutely loved having her own bed, low to the floor, with a baby rail on it! She wouldn't have fallen out. The rail was for her to hang onto, and keep herself sitting up, on her knees. She could actually drag herself in and out of this bed, with great effort. It was the first time she had had this independence in her life. At bedtime, when I came to tuck her in, she would be sitting up on her knees, hanging onto the rail, and bouncing up and down, laughing! Skyla often sat in her bed, and jumped on HER knees, beside her! Two little sisters in clean nighties. Two pairs of bright eyes sparkling at me! Oh, it was good to see Cherise being a regular little girl, in a regular family, giggling at bedtime!
She settled in amazingly well, and soon it seemed as though she had lived with us forever.
She was ready to start first grade when she first came home. Skyla was starting Kindergarten. Later, they would do their schoolwork together. She enjoyed being bounced gently by a sister or brother on the trampoline that was set into the ground in our back yard. She had to lie on her tummy or back, because being bounced made her fall over, and she would giggle and giggle!
Cherise soon learned all about picnics and camping. She was an excellent traveller. She liked the ocean, the mountains, everything. She liked having a family of her very own. And everything was a thrill to give her!
Cherise had a warm place in her heart for my nursery babies. Because children who were profoundly retarded had been her only companions until she was six years old, she mothered her helpless siblings, attended to their needs, came to tell me if she thought one of them needed something, and I was in another room, and just plain loved them. She cried when her sister or brother died, but she also knew that in Heaven, she would see them again, and they, as well as she, would be well and whole. She took great comfort in knowing that they would be able to run, talk, laugh together, for all eternity. She knew that all the heartaches, pain, and disabilities in this world, will mean nothing, when we are all living with Jesus.