Little Big Girl

Karin vonKrenner
Posted November 29, 2020

Aysea turned 11 today. It felt so much bigger than being just 10 and much bigger than 9.  This was her second birthday here. She stood up on her bed and grabbed the bars, standing on her toes to see out. Was the world different today, now that she was 11?  Nothing had changed outside. She could see the dust swirling as cars and trucks passed on the dirt road in the distance. Where did they all go, what did they do, those trucks and cars?  Below her window, a guard was secretly smoking. He didn't know the smoke coiled into Aysea's window everyday, making her sneeze. From the second story, where the room was, Aysea was invisible to the people passing below.  They never looked up.

She was 11 today. Nobody would know that. Her family was gone. She didn't know where they were. Maybe behind the bars in the buildings far across the road.  When they first brought her and the other children here, she had tried to wave her hand out of the window. Maybe Mama and Papa would see her.  Nobody ever waved back.  After a few weeks, she stopped. It was too hard standing on her tiptoes for so long. Too hard not knowing if Mama and Papa didn't want to wave back.  Too hard trying to understand what she had done wrong..

The other children around her remained curled up, still sleeping. They all shared three small, metal beds.  Sleep was  a good way to forget. To make the hours vanish.  Unless there were dreams. Or nightmares. Sometimes Aysea woke up crying and confused.  It could take a few minutes before she remembered where she was. Before the grey walls closed her off from memories of Mama and Papa and her little kitten Pipa.  The uniformed people called this place "detention".  They said it was to keep her and the other children safe. It didn't feel safe. It felt like punishment. 

She didn't understand what she had done wrong. They wouldn't tell her when she asked. Just told her to "be quiet and behave".  It must have been very bad for them take her away from Mama. They didn't make her feel safe. Just scared and alone. If only she could understand what she had done wrong, then she could be better and go home. Mama would forgive her. She always did before.

Aysea shook the thoughts from her head and sat down on the bed with a thump. She waited for the other children to wake. 7 of them in this room.  The youngest only 3.   Matron would come soon and lead them to the smelly bathroom at the end of the corridor. Sometimes, if the disenfectant was still splashed on the floors, it burned their eyes and made them cry. If any of the little ones cried, Matron would yell at all of them. Aysea didn't think the Matron liked little children. She never smiled or talked to them. Aysea had given up trying after the third slap. 

She sat up a bit straighter on the bed. She was 11 today. A big girl. Oldest in the room.  Grown up now. She stepped off the bed, feeling the harsh, cold cement on her bare feet. She sighed as her toes pinched again when she tried to put on her shoes. Matron said complaining was "ungrateful". They had been donated by invisible people who sent boxes full of mixed up clothes and odd shoes. Kind people, Matron said. Aysea wondered why the kind people couldn't get sizes right. Maybe they didn't have children where they came from.   It was hard to walk sometimes when her feet hurt and there were no socks that fit.  Mama had always insisted on getting Aysea solid fitting shoes and warm socks, even if her own were tattered.  Mama used to say " good shoes make good walking into a good future".  Aysea wondered what Mama would say about her shoes and her future now. 

Smashing her feet in, she could hear Matron already banging on doors in the echoing hall.  Shouting at the other children in distant rooms to get up.  If they were not ready, you could hear Matron yelling more and even slaps. Aysea quickly stepped around the room waking the others, handing out their clothes and folding the tattererd blankets in a pile. When she was finished tidying it all up, she lined them up by the door, shushing them, tying a shoe and finger brushing their hair.  She gave them all a quick hug and smile.  They waited for Matron to unlock the door.   The children in her charge were ready.

Aysea stood as tall as she could. She was 11 now. Time to be a Big Girl.

 

This story was submitted in response to Human Rights for All.

Comments 8

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Tamarack Verrall
Nov 30, 2020
Nov 30, 2020

Hi Karin,
Heartbreaking and beautiful. Your words took me right into that "detention centre". It made me think of all the children who have grown up or who are growing up in detention centres/orphanages, the children at the US/Mexican border, the children who were taken into Residential Schools here in my country. Thank you for the important journey.
In sisterhood,
Tam

Karin vonKrenner
Nov 30, 2020
Nov 30, 2020

Thank you Tam. Yes, the pandemic has pushed so many stories to the wayside. The plight of children in detention is one of them. Sadly, taking children away from their families is a recurring theme in many countries.

jomarieb.earth
Nov 30, 2020
Nov 30, 2020

Dear Karin,
This is a heartbreaking story. Any story about children suffering is difficult to fathom. This story is unfortunately timeless and has no boundaries. And when these children age out of the system, we expect them to be responsible and productive adults. How ironic. Thank you for shedding light on a dark space.
Hugs...JoMarie

Karen QuiƱones-Axalan
Dec 03, 2020
Dec 03, 2020

Hello, Karin,

Thank you for bringing us to Aysea's perspective. You have heard this many times, you're a great writer and storyteller. I was able to picture out the imageries you wrote. At the same time, you evoke our emotions for Aysea and the children with her. I love how Aysea is taking control in her uncontrollable environment when she decides to take care of the rest of the children even when she need her mom to care for her, too.

Have we neglected children as a society that we put them in orphanages/detention centres instead of caring families (close relatives, trusted communities, etc.)? Have we been so focused on making ends meet that we could not accommodate care for another child?

"It's easier to build strong children than repair broken adults". How can we build stronger children in these institutions? Are we setting them up to be broken adults? We need to pay attention to children.

Wow, there are so many thoughts to ponder on your story. That's how powerful a writer you are. Thank you for sharing with us.

mugoli
Dec 04, 2020
Dec 04, 2020

t was not easy but God gave grace

KABAHENDA KIGGUNDU
Dec 05, 2020
Dec 05, 2020

My dear Karin,
You have touched on a very painful and very common problem: the abuse of small vulnerable children by adults that are supposed to provide them with protection.
It is very unfortunate that Matrons-these women who are supposed to ease the silent grief of small angels who did not choose to be born in the circumstances in which they are born, who did not choose to lose their parents, if that is the case-end up mistreating the children in the most inhuman, inhumane and degrading ways.
I have often wondered what is it that makes such women so cruel?
Alas, "detention centres" a.k.a orphanages and or foster homes are still with us today, and the stories sound the same regardless of the continent, and regardless of laws against the abuse of children.
I keep asking myself why? What can I do to bring love and hope to such children?
It is a story that reminds me to be more compassionate and humane.
Thank you for sharing.

Karin vonKrenner
Dec 08, 2020
Dec 08, 2020

Thank you for sharing your feelings Kabahenda. Children are so trusting, vulnerable and brave. We must find ways to protect them where ever they are.
Hugs.

Anum Shakeel
Dec 16, 2020
Dec 16, 2020

Sister Karin, Thank you for sharing the story!