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Family for A While

To my parents-in-laws
whose home has been a "family for a
while" to many and a cornerstone of
our own home with love and thanks.

of the train seat and took a sip of her coke. Soda was
supposed to calm the stomach, but somehow it didn't
seem to be working too well. The butterflies inside her
were just as active as they had been before she took a drink.

Tallie reached into her coat pocket for the snapshot
and smoothed it out on her knee. She had looked at the
picture so often that it was as creased and wrinkled as a
discarded lunch bag.

There they all were. Tallie had to admit that they
looked like a really nice family. Of course, that didn't mean
anything, she reminded herself. Most families looked nice
until you had to live with them. Then you found out what
they were really like.

She knew them all by name already, she realized. They
had enclosed the picture in the letter they had sent

welcoming her to their family, and someone she guessed
it was Mrs. Kramer had written out the names and ages of
every child in careful handwriting on the back.

In the center was Mrs. Kramer, looking pretty and
motherly, holding a baby on her lap. A little girl of about
ten with freckles and braids was leaning on Mrs. Kramer's
knee. Tallie guessed that was Dena. A little to the left,
standing by herself with her hands on her hips in a
confident pose, was Gila. Her blonde hair was blowing in
the wind. Somehow she looked younger than Tallie, al-
though the writing on the back said they were the same

But what tugged at Tallie's heart was the grouping to
the right of Mrs. Kramer. A tall broad man with a full black
beard was standing with his arms around two boys. She
glanced at the older one, an eight-year-old named Dovie,
but the one that caught her attention was Chanan.

For some reason, the trusting look in his eyes and the
way his father was smiling down at him made Tallie's eyes
tear. The caption said he was Eitan's age, six, but somehow
he looked younger.

At the thought of Eitan, a sharp pain shot through
Tallie's heart. She still couldn't believe that she had left
him behind with that foster family. Until now, the agency
had always managed to place them together, but this time
it just hadn't worked out. The Bergers had a son Eitan's
age, and they thought it would be nice for him to have a
playmate, but they had no interest in a fourteen-year-old
girl tagging along and messing up the beautiful family

Mrs. Muller from the agency had finally convinced
Tallie that this was a wonderful opportunity for Eitan to be
with a nice young family that had a little boyjust his age and
lots of nice toys. Tallie hadn't wanted to believe that any of
that was as important as being with his sister, but the
Bergers had promised Eitan a new two-wheeler with train-
ing wheels, and he had talked of nothing else the last two
times Tallie had visited him. So Tallie had finally agreed to
be separated. After the experience they'd had at the
previous foster home, she had to admit that the Bergers
looked like a good option for Eitan. As for herself, she was
willing to suffer through any type of home as long as they
let her visit him on occasion and didn't expect too much of
her in return.

The Bergers had brought Eitan to the train station to
see her off, and the scene remained vivid in her mind. Mrs.
Berger had one arm around her son Levi and the other one
around Eitan. But somehow, Eitan had wriggled away
from her so that her hand just rested lightly on his
shoulder, while her own son Levi was snuggled up close to
her other side.

Tallie looked down again at the picture of Rabbi
Kramer with his arm around Chanan. You just can't fake
real love, she thought bitterly. No foster child could ever
hope for that kind of closeness.

A light tap on Tallie's shoulder startled her. "Is that a
picture of your family, dear? What a lovely portrait!"

It was the little old lady across the aisle. Tallie had been
so immersed in her thoughts that she had barely noticed
that someone was sitting there. She groaned to herself.

These grownups! Why were they always butting into other
people's lives? What would this lady gain from knowing if
it was or wasn't her family? And what was she supposed to
answer, anyway?

Tallie turned to look at her. The lady was looking back
at her expectantly, her face bright and animated beneath
her blue beret, her head cocked to one side like a curious
bluebird. There seemed to be something live in the box
that she was holding on her lap.

"No, they are not my family," she replied curtly.

"Oh," She wasn't going to give up. "Relatives?"

Tallie shook her head and busied herself with the bag
of food on her lap.

"Well, who are they then? Friends?"

Tallie looked straight at Mrs. Bluebird. "They are going
to be my foster family," she said, enunciating each word
carefully. She expected the lady to look suddenly flustered
and apolgize for snooping, as people usually did when
faced with the facts. Mrs. Bluebird, though, was apparently
not the flustered type.

"Foster parents? Oh, you mean you don't live with your
real parents? Amazing! These must be really wonderful
people to take you in. How lovely of them!

A wave of bitterness washed over Tallie. Wonderful
people? Were all foster families wonderful people? What
would Mrs. Bluebird have said about the Walkers, their last
foster family? Tallie had worked there from morning to
night, running their house almost singlehandedly. She was
practically a live-in maid, except that her foster parents
were the ones being paid for using her. Ignoring a racking

cough, Tallie had worked herself to the bone, hoping
desperately that the Walkers would keep her and Eitan,
and she had ended up in the hospital for a week with
pneumonia from overexertion.

And what about the Listmans, where they had been
dolls in Mrs. Listman's showcase for a year? And when
Eitan's nightmares had woken Mrs. Listman up one time
too many, she had gotten rid of them so quickly they barely
had time to pack their bags.

Even Aunt Melanie, who was a real relative, was a foster
parent, too. Would Mrs. Bluebird have considered her a
"wonderful person"? What would she have said about the
way she had kept her and Eitan away from her children
with a ten-foot pole, afraid that they would be a bad
influence on them?

Well, it was about time someone disabused her, and
Tallie wasn't planning to mince words.

"For your information," she said icily, "in my experi-
ence, most people take in foster children for one of two
reasons. Either for the help or for the money. And from
the look of this picture, I would say that this family is taking
me for both."

Mrs. Bluebird's eyes widened. "Oh dear, don't believe
that! Why, look how warm and cozy they all look in that
picture. You have got to look at the bright side of things."
She bobbed her head sagely and reached over to pat
Tallie's arm. "You are too young to be so bitter."

For a moment, Tallie felt like Mrs. Bluebird was the
child and she was the adult. Long ago, she had ceased to
think that there was a bright side of things.



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