So often I find myself wondering about children who were once regulars with us at Pajama Program.
Last night while chatting with my husband about the kids that read with us yesterday he asked me,
"Do you ever see that little girl who used to come with the xyz group?"
Shana. I remembered her name instantly.
All of a sudden her pretty face popped into my mind. I remember how the she caught my glance once as I walked by carrying an armful of books. She had big round, light brown eyes, beautiful but very sad. She was reading with a volunteer, as usual, but she seemed distracted, fidgety. It was unlike her -- she was usually caught up in her storybook. She was 6 and we sang happy birthday to her when she turned 7.
"She only had a dad...and he was in and out of her life, remember?" my husband asked me.
I do remember. Once in a blue moon her father showed up to see her when she was with us and that girl lit up like a spotlight! She clung to him tightly when he arrived and it was hard for anyone else to get her attention once he came into the room.
Each time I saw them together I wondered about his role in her life. She wrapped her arms around his neck and he sat her on his lap and together they watched all the other children reading. They didn't read, they just watched. Clearly there was love. But there was also absence.
It broke my heart to see them together only because I knew it was temporary. Shana's smile was infectious when she showed him off and everyone could see his affection for her in his eyes. Maybe Shana's situation was harder for me than for her. Maybe she learned to channel the pain of separation into unconditional love, a love a little girl has for her daddy, no matter how long he sticks around. Maybe leaving wasn't his fault, maybe he was gone often in order to work to take care of his daughter.
I hope so.
Shana hasn't been around for a few years now. We know children come and go, that's a reality of the system. When I see Shana's staff the next time I'm going to ask about her. I know I'll hold my breath waiting to hear the answer. And I also know I may never find out where Shana is.