Silence filled the courtroom. Every
eye fastened on the man with drooping shoulders standing in front of the judge.
“I asked you a question,” the judge
said, staring at Sally’s father. “Do you want these children?”
“Of course he wants us. He’s our
father!” Sally shouted, leaping from her chair.
Iona caught her and pulled her
outside. “You can’t control yourself. We’ll wait here until they’ve finished.”
Sally wanted to scream at Iona, but
before she could say a word she was taken out of the courthouse.
As soon as she spotted her siblings
coming out of the courtroom doors, Sally cried out, “What did he say? Does he
Grover looked up at her, tears
running down his cheeks. “He said no.”
Sally couldn’t believe what she’d
just heard. Quickly the guards led the children off in different directions.
Grover’s words burned in her heart. “He said no.”
Maybe we’re just too much trouble
or maybe we cost too much to feed, she thought. Or perhaps Father is sick or
Suddenly, conflicting thoughts
swirled in Sally’s mind. Your heavenly Father will never say that He doesn’t
want you. But if my own father doesn’t want me, how can God? How can I trust
someone I’ve never seen? It was as if she were arguing with herself.
A week later Iona came into Sally’s
room with a large paper bag. She stuffed Sally’s few things into it. “You’re
all leaving here,” she announced abruptly.
“We’re leaving now? But I thought
my father didn’t want us,” Sally said.
“Stop asking questions,” Iona shot
back, leading her into the waiting room.
“Sally,” another employee
whispered, pressing a book into her hand. “Always remember that you’re the girl
Sally looked at the pink book with
“Bible” stamped in gold letters on the front. “Thank you,” Sally responded.
“Thank you for your kindness.”
Soon the brothers and sisters were
gathered in the waiting room. Then, to their surprise, they saw Father’s big
Cadillac pull up to the front door! No one spoke as they climbed in. Even Sally
didn’t know what to say. They rode in silence as Father drove up the freeway.
Sally expected her parents to explain why they had been taken to Juvenile Hall
and why they were suddenly leaving, but her parents said nothing.
They passed through Riverside and
San Bernardino, and started up the long winding highway that led into the
mountains. Yellow Scotch bonnet bushes adorned the roadside, forming a thin,
gold line. Soon the family reached about 6,000 feet in elevation and entered a
ponderosa pine forest.
“Running Springs,” a sign read as
they passed under a bridge. Moments later the road turned left and stopped in
front of a large brown house made from smooth logs, painted brown.
Father pulled into a four-car
garage and the family piled out of the car. A long flight of stairs led to a
porch that ran the full length of the house.
“It’s huge!” Glenn exclaimed when
they entered the kitchen.
Sally had never seen so many
cupboards. Ten people could cook in here, she thought. The kitchen opened into
an even larger living room.
“The fireplace is a real whopper. I
can stand inside it,” Bob shouted.
“Upstairs, everyone,” Mother said.
“Your names are on the bedroom doors. You each have your own room.”
They pounded up the stairs and
scattered. Sally found her room and looked inside. A single bed, dresser, and
chair sat in the room. A window looked out into the woods.
“It’s beautiful,” she sighed.
They ran in and out of each other’s
bedrooms. Mother and father’s room sat at the end of the hallway on the same
floor. After checking out every room, the siblings tumbled down the stairs into
the living room, everyone talking at once.
Over the next week Mother, Lynn,
and Glenn glued down tiles, square by square, on the living room floor. When
the floor was finished, they rubbed paste wax on every tile.
“We don’t have a floor buffer,”
Mother said, “but I have an idea.” She wrapped everyone’s feet in old rags.
“Slide around. It will buff the floor and save a lot of work.” For hours they
ran and slid all over the living room floor, laughing, and singing songs. They
buffed by hand those areas they couldn’t get with their feet. They moved the
furniture back into the room, placing the couches in front of the fireplace and
arranging the dining room table and chairs in front of a set of French doors
that opened onto the porch.
“Why is it so big, Mother?” Sally
“This used to be a ski lodge,”
Father never mentioned the day at
court or anything about their stay at Juvenile Hall, even though on occasion
Sally tried to bring the subject up. It’s just as though it never happened, Sally
thought. But it did happen, and it still hurts inside. Could it happen again?
One day Mother had an announcement
to make. “I’ll be working a half day three days a week for Mrs. Akers. She
lives near here,” she said. “Don’t worry, I’ll just be doing a little
housekeeping,” she added when she noticed the frown on Sally’s face.
Sally sighed. She didn’t like the
idea of Mother being gone, but she decided to trust that God had a plan in
Meanwhile, the nearby woods
beckoned. Sally spent hours wandering about. Purple iris dotted the forest
floor, and ferns uncurled in the filtered sunlight. She pressed wildflowers in
a special book and collected pinecones. The hours she spent outside gave her
the joy of discovering new things. In her heart, she still longed for the ocean,
but she never spoke of it to anyone.
Sally and her brothers made
backpacks from large Tide soapboxes. Mother gave them strips of stiff fabric
she used to make belts for her dresses so that they could make straps for their
packs. Next they tied themselves together with rope like mountain climbers.
Sally always packed sketchbooks and colored pencils in her pack.
One day they came across a small
lake less than a mile from the lodge. A stream bounced down a hillside and
plunged into the lake. They discovered that a flat, smooth slab of rock sat in
the stream at the point where the water leaped over the edge and fell down into
“This would be a great waterslide!”
Bob said enthusiastically.
“Let’s come back tomorrow,” Glenn
The following morning, Sally
pleaded with Mother. “Please let me go with them!”
“No, I’m sorry, Sally,” Mother
replied. “The hole in your throat is still open. The bandage won’t keep water
out. You could easily drown.”
“But I won’t go into the water, I
promise! I’ll just sit nearby and draw pictures.”
Sally begged again and again.
Finally Mother gave in. “Well, I suppose you’re old enough to know how to
obey,” she said.
“I will, Mother, I will!” Sally
said, jumping about.
A slight breeze cooled the hikers
as they scrambled down the steep path that led to the lake. When they came to
the spot where the stream fell into the lake, the boys threw down their packs
and lined up for a turn at the “waterslide.”
Sally continued on down the trail
to the far end of the lake and sat down. She could see her siblings splash and
hear their happy screams. They climbed to the top of the falls and slid over
the edge again and again.
The noonday sun bore down on Sally.
She had forgotten how hot it could be in the mountains. She wiped the perspiration
from her forehead and began drawing. After a while she stood up and watched
Glenn do a torpedo dive off the falls.
Why don’t you just get your feet
wet? a voice inside Sally suggested. It would cool off your whole body. Your
feet are a long way from your throat. How could it hurt you?