The donation bag was dropped off anonymously, as many of
ours are. Somebody cleaned out their closet and collected a bag of items
to donate to A Kid’s Place. The bag was routed to our donation room,
where volunteers sorted through it and placed the items in their appropriate
bins and on hangers to wait for someone to claim them.
There was an Operation game with all the body organs
missing…that had to be thrown away. And the 24 piece puzzle with only
20 pieces? Couldn’t do much with that. What to do with the tap
shoes? A tiny pair of old tap shoes with black satin bows and scratched
taps attached to the bottoms. What good were those to us?
Gina came to us late one evening, her brother and sister
already asleep when they arrived at A Kid’s Place. They were carried into
their beds, where they barely moved as they were tucked in and left to sleep
after the ordeal of being removed from their home. But Gina wasn’t that
easy. She was scared and upset and couldn’t be consoled. It’s hard
to explain to a three-year old why she has been uprooted from her home and
taken to a strange place. We feel like saviors as we take her away from
the abuse and neglect she has known all her life, but to her we are the enemy
because we have taken her away from the only home she’s ever known.
She finds a nightgown in the donation room with Ariel the
mermaid on it and begrudgingly takes it from me, torn between letting me know
how upset she is and wanting the beautiful nightgown for her own. She
sets her jaw firmly but the tears leak from her eyes like a faucet missing a
washer; no matter how hard she tightens her eyes, the tears still slide down
On her way out of the donation room, she sees the tap shoes
and grabs them, stuffing them between the folds of the nightgown in her
hands. Deciding it’s not worth the battle, I let her take them with her
even though she’s not old enough to dance in them or even know what they’re
In the morning, her brother and sister are wide awake long
before Gina is and they sit silently at the table, eating hungrily whatever I
place in front of them. They will be treated for lice today, taken for
physicals, and allowed to choose clean clothes and new shoes from the donation
room. Bacon is sizzling in the skillet when I hear a soft tapping sound
on top of the pop and spit of the meat. Gina toddles down the hallway, her
hair a tangled nest of unruly curls but looking resplendent in her princess
nightie. Peeking under the ruffle at the bottom are two little tap shoes.
Gina loves the tap shoes. She wears them with every
outfit, even her nightgown and swimsuit. All. The. Time. She taps through
the house and down the sidewalk. She taps through the lobby and into
toddler class. She only takes them off to bathe and even that is a
struggle. We polish the shoes with Vaseline while she plays in a bubble
bath, but as soon as she’s out she is back in her tap shoes.
Gina smiles and laughs now; her favorite thing to eat is
spaghetti, her favorite clothes all have princesses of some description on
them, and she’ll only go to sleep if her sister is in the room with her.
“Your shoes are too loud,” her sister complains as Gina snuggles up
next to her and clicks the bottoms of her shoes together. “And
nobody sleeps with shoes on,” she adds indignantly.
“I do,” Gina mumbles as she sticks her thumb in
her mouth and closes her eyes. Gina’s sister sighs, giving in to the
fight she loses every night. Gina will sleep with her tap shoes on.