GRANDMA DEBOSE CARRIED a small wooden accent table to the front lawn and placed it in front of a tall, manicured boxwood hedge. She cut three red roses, dropped them into a vase, and sat them upon the tabletop.
Six-year-old Hope removed an antique Bavarian teacup and saucer from a wicker basket and arranged the ensemble in front of the vase. She had been lectured on the extreme importance of handling the 1893 family heirloom with tender loving care. Hope breathed a sigh of relief after making the successful transfer.
“Well done,” said Henrietta Debose. “Now, what do you think about your setup?”
Hope stepped back and studied the arrangement. “Can we lay a rose on the table in front of the cup?” she asked.
“Give it a try.”
After a few minor adjustments to the setup, Hope declared she was ready. She sat down on a lawn chair, grabbed a pad and pencil, and started her assignment.
“How many more days?” asked Hope, tilting her head to analyze her subject.
“Sweetheart, you just got here. Your mother won’t pick you up until the end of August.”
“Penelope hates me.”
“Your mother doesn’t hate you.”
“That’s what she said.”
How could a parent be so cruel? Henrietta wasn’t aware of physical abuse, but she was concerned by the demeaning and hateful behavior exhibited toward the child. She had often thought of reporting Penelope and Marvin to Social Services, but stopped short. Henrietta’s relationship with her son was bad enough.
It broke Henrietta’s heart to hear Hope call her parents, Penelope and the Captain. It wasn’t because Hope was rebellious or disrespectful. Her birth was viewed as inconvenient, the accident that shouldn’t have happened. In fact, it was Hope’s parents who encouraged her to call them by their first names.
On several occasions, Henrietta offered to adopt Hope, but the Captain wouldn’t allow it. “Then let her live with me,” she said. Again, her offer was refused. Marvin didn’t want to give up his tax deduction, and Penelope needed Hope to help with household chores. Henrietta challenged that rationale, “The child is only six,” she said. Penelope countered, “The child is remarkably capable for her age. Besides, you’ll just fill her head with that art nonsense.”
Henrietta dedicated herself to creating a Shangri-La for Hope, an environment of unconditional love, positive reinforcement, and learning.
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