Listen to this post on season 1 episode 31 of the podcast.
Arlo straightened the back of her wrinkled skirt. Around her, iridescent bubbles whisked into the air, carried from the plastic wands of her sister’s kindergarten class into the weightless schooltime recess air with its saltwater breeze at the end of a long summer. The first day of school couldn’t have come sooner for Arlo.
Arlo tucked her lower lip into her chattering teeth. She’d never been more nervous. She fumbled with the handwritten note in her left hand. The laminated hall pass for her third-grade class hung around her neck.
“Arlo? What are you doing out here?” Mrs. Steele asked, eyebrows high in surprise to see her former student outside during little kids’ recess.
Arlo cast her eyes downward and shrugged. Her bathroom rouse was her only chance to see Mrs. Steele.
Arlo had no words. Not verbally. Just the question she’d written on that piece of wide-ruled notebook paper. Across the playground her little sister blew bubbles in a faded blue dress rich with the stains of the previous owner. Arlo had meekly chosen the dress for her sister. Their mother had taught Arlo how to sort through second-hand clothing at the shelter. Before she left.
The Carolina breeze picked up and a cluster of cumulous clouds gathered above them. Arlo glanced quickly at Mrs. Steele. Mrs. Steele was kind. The kindest adult Arlo knew.
“What do you have there?” Mrs. Steele asked, reaching down to take the note.
Arlo said nothing. She handed over the piece of paper with her question written on it. Mrs. Steele read the handwritten line once. She looked at Arlo. She read the line again, eyes wide.
Arlo looked across the playground at her sister now playing a game of chase. Her faded, oversized dress billowed behind her. Arlo thought once more about the book Mrs. Steele had her class read at the end of last schoolyear. A book about a little koala also left behind in the world. No one loved it. No one cared for it. Except for a kindly giraffe. A mama giraffe who adopted the baby koala as its own.
Does adoption mean you get loved forever? Arlo had wondered back then. But she never asked aloud. She was too ashamed. Now, she had no other hope.
Mrs. Steele cleared her throat. She lowered herself to eye-level with Arlo’s quivering frame.
“Yes,” Mrs. Steele said aloud. “Adoption means someone will love you forever.”