Growing up, Catherine Pearson alternated between living with foster parents and her birth mother. Now 34 years old, she wrote this open letter to the sixteen foster families who cared for her and taught her lessons that influenced her well into adulthood.
I remember the day I came to live with you, carrying all of my belongings in a black trash bag. I had a sick feeling in my stomach when I was called to the office at school and a caseworker walked me out to her car to drive me to your house. She told me how wonderful your family was and bought me a Happy Meal from McDonald’s. I forced myself to take a few bites.
I may have seemed shy and scared the first few days I lived with you. I didn’t know what the rules were, I didn’t know if I would get in trouble if I accidentally wet the bed. I really wished that I could have brought my poodle, Princess, with me.
Thank you for making me breakfast and helping me put my clothes away. I never knew that parents made kids hot meals every day! Holy cow! Thanks for letting me watch and help you cook, clean, work in the office, and even let me drive with you to the store (just you and me). At first, I thought your family was on their best behavior and that after I was there a while things would go back to the way things were at my “real” mom’s house… but they didn’t.
Thank you for all the time you spent making our Easter baskets and then hiding little messages around the house for us to find them (mine was hidden in the dryer), for teaching me about buckling up in the car, and for helping me to realize the hard truth about why I was not at my “real” house.
Thank you for understanding why I started to rebel when I got comfortable in your home. You were angry when I jumped on my bed when it was bedtime and when I dug up the tree roots in the front yard. But you knew I was not a bad kid.
I want you to know that when I went back to my mom’s house I would still do the things you taught me to do. I would always buckle up in the car. I would make sure to keep my clothes washed. And even though I didn’t always have a bed at my mom’s house, I kept the same bedtime routine you taught me. Yes, I brushed my teeth every night, even though I told you I wouldn’t have to at my “real” mom’s house.
I want you to know that when I went to school, I started to do my best. I still had fun and made jokes during class, but I slowly started getting good grades. I even helped my older brother and sister with their math facts!
I finished high school and went to college. In one of my psychology classes, the professor said that kids raised in a neglectful or drug-affected environment would repeat the cycle. He said that they would not be able to hold down a job, maintain relationships, or go to college. I was mad. He had no idea that I was breaking the cycle. So, I decided that I would also get a master’s degree, and I did. As you can see, I still like to prove people wrong.
I want you to know that I graduated from college with honors. I know you would have been proud. I wished you were there. I didn’t know what to do with the family tickets that I was given for the graduation. I think I may still have them.
I became a Christian, and I have been married for 14 years. I have three kids, and I have done everything possible to be the best mom to them. I took in foster kids, too, and told them all about you! Though I don’t have but a handful of pictures from my childhood, I do have clear memories of you. I think of you all the time. You are my real family.
Merry Christmas from your foster child.