I became a foster mom a few weeks back, and I kept trying to put words to the experience, but they always failed me. It has been, in some ways, not surprising in the least. (I was a teacher for seven years—I’ve called human services before.) But in other ways, it has been a total shock. (I didn’t expect a 17-year-old who unabashedly dances in his socks to Disney music, who makes me camouflage duct tape purse organizers and friendship bracelets and key chains, or who thanks us for everything we give him—even chores.) I tried writing about it so many times, and the words just failed me. I had no idea how to explain what I was experiencing.
That is, until today.
I have a soft spot in my heart for junk. (I come by it quite naturally—I was raised on yard sales and my mother-in-law is an antique dealer.) I take that back—it’s not junk to me. I currently have a garage full of “projects:” two old doors, two old beds, three dressers, a vanity, two mirrors, miscellaneous chairs, and a ton of odds and ends. It’s starting to drive my husband crazy, I know. So today, when he gently suggested I go out to the garage and start to work on some of these “projects” so that we can actually walk from the truck to the house without navigating the labyrinth of crap that has amassed in there, I put on my work clothes and did just that.
As I was looking around at my treasures, I realized that these were the things that so many others didn’t want. But that didn’t lessen their value to me. I saw potential in them. I saw patina. I saw experience and age and character and beauty. I saw originality. I saw use. And it was my mission to restore these treasures to their former glory. (Or, rather, a reincarnation of their former glory. I prefer to re-imagine them rather than fully restore them, and I don’t do stain and varnish. Too fussy.)
But as I was standing there in my garage, I suddenly understood what this whole fostermomming thing was all about.
It’s about taking in what others so often won’t. It’s about seeing potential in someone. It’s about seeing experience and character and beauty. It’s about seeing use. And it’s about helping those kids believe that they can re-imagine themselves, that they can be more than they ever dreamed.
So, as it has become my mission to rescue all of the furniture that I can get my hands on, to take it in and transform it, it has also become my charge to fostermom all the kids I can, to take them in, help them sand off the rough spots and shine them up, and show them what beauty lies beneath.
(My first furniture rescue project: turning these $4 holey chairs into the centerpiece of my kitchen. I think they look like a million bucks.)