by Chelsea Lynne Sandmeyer
I knew a little girl so long ago. She was all of six and lived in a house nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.
The windward slopes of the Appalachians had been her playground. Echoes of children’s voices answered her calls across the Roanoke Valley, for her little friends shared in her love of laughter and fun. She had everything a little girl could want: clothes, toys, books, and a room to call her own. Carefree and happy was that little girl so long ago.
How could everything so good, so wonderful, so happy, become so sad, so tragic, so quickly? What happened to this little girl so long ago?
The house…her house…no longer felt happy anymore. Gone was her father. Sad was her mother. Lonely was her house. Sad was her house. She lost her happy family. She lost her happy house. She had to give away nearly all of her toys and clothes and books. She said good-bye to her house. She said good-bye to her friends. This is how a girl of six thinks. I knew this little girl so long ago.
Where will I live and for how long? Will I ever see my old friends again? Why did I have to move so far away? How long will I sleep in my cousin’s house? Will Mommy always sleep on my cousin’s couch? Why must I move again? Why can’t I have my own room…or my toys…or my other things? Will Mommy sleep in my room from now on? Will I have to move once more? What happened to all of our furniture? Where is our couch…our cozy chair? What happened to all of our things? Where are they? These are the questions a girl of six asks. I knew this girl so long ago.
The little girl moved again and again and again. She had lived in four towns in two states, and she had been in three elementary, all within six months, all between kindergarten and first grade. Then she settled for a while, and she asked her mother about some things. Sadly, her mother could not bring back the toys and the books and the clothes…or the old friends, but her mother could give her back something she wanted the most, a room to call her own.
What happened to cause that little girl’s family such trauma? A know, but when the little girl grew older, she would come to understand these things. Such is the catastrophe of divorce. Such is the catastrophe of a single parent trying to find a new job in a new town. Such is the catastrophe of the parent losing a home while trying to find a temporary place to live…just for a little while…just until things get a little better.
When you lose your home, you are homeless. A little girl of six can not only tell you this, but a little girl of six can tell you how it feels.
How did she cope? What hope and comfort did she have? What could you say to this little girl of six?
This is what she would say. “Be thankful for family. Be thankful for friends. Be thankful if a kind stranger helps you. Someone out there can help you. Then someday, help someone else in return.”
I know this little girl so long ago. That little girl grew up to be me. Chelsea is currently a student at The College of New Jersey.
This article originally appeared in the Fall 2011 edition of The Wall Newspaper.