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  • Barbara Elk

Such High Hopes...

Updated: Mar 2, 2019

I flew from Winnipeg, Manitoba and arrived in the evening at the Harrisburg Airport in the State of Pennsylvania on May 10th, 1979.

On the morning of the start of my new life, I awakened like I normally did. A tapping of knuckles from a staff member on the open door of the bedroom I shared with another girl. We were paired up in rooms, a hallway for the girls and a hallway for the boys. There was one room on the boys hallway, to the left of the stairway, that held three bunk beds. Sometimes, there was a mix of boys and girls in that room, depending on if there was an overflow of kids in the home. I know the staff members did their best not to mix the sexes in that one room but sometimes it happened.

I opened my eyes as my ears slowly tuned into the familiar, loud voices of the other girls as they yelled or sang, depending on their morning personalities.

"Hey Barbie, good morning! Today is your last day here, kiddo."

My bed was against the wall nearest to the door. The brown haired staff member smiled at me, her eyes puffy and begging for sleep. The staff members were normally students who were attending Brandon University, so I'm sure they were studying to be social workers, case workers or child psychologists. Every one of them were angels in disguise as they were patient, kind and attentive.

The staff member walked over to my roommate and gently roused her from sleep. "Come on, go to the bathroom and brush your teeth."

Turning to me, the staff member tilted her head and smiled, "And you can just lay in bed a bit longer if you want to. You don't have to get ready for school."

I smiled shyly and rolled over onto my side, tucking the sheet and blanket under my neck as I laid in the fetal position. I couldn't fall asleep. I listened as my friends got ready for school, walking up and down the hallway to the bathroom which was across the hallway from me. Each hallway had its own bathroom with three sinks and three bathroom stalls.

I felt special at that moment, not having to wake up and kind of excited for the new adventure. I met my new parents in late March, beginning of April. They seemed to be very nice and kind. I even stayed overnight at the motel they were staying in, jumping on the bed in the morning before we left the room. My new father grinned, gently prodded me off the bed.

The social worker who introduced us in the meeting room at the children's home, seemed to be pleased that we hit it off right away. How could I not get along with people who were so kind and patient. They smiled every time I smiled.

So as I laid in the warm bed for the last time, my excitement grew for my new home. Maybe this time I wasn't going to be sent back.

"Bye Barbie! I'm going to miss you!"

One by one, each of my friends stuck their heads in the doorway, waving goodbye, with a few scurrying over to the side of my bed to give me a quick hug. One of the girls said she was jealous I was getting adopted. After the last one said their farewell, I laid my head back on the pillow and I tried my best to gulp back tears. I didn't know if I'd ever see any of them again.

I listened to their intermingled voices echoing in the open stairwell and their resounding footsteps became stifled by the heavy metal door as it quietly closed shut, eventually swallowing up the last remnants of their fading voices.

I looked out the window and was thankful that my roommate had opened it before she left the room. I felt the morning breeze slide across my face, and watched as the dark curtain panels on either side of the window slightly move back and forth. I could tell the morning sun was rising higher in the sky as the warm sunlight shone on the tree branches. The melodic song of the wood thrush bird, perched nearby, cascaded in through the open window. That was my favorite sound in the morning. I closed my eyes and hoped I would have that same sound at my new home.


I had so much hope. But there was hesitation. I heard this new place was far away in a different country and that made me incredibly sad as a great distance would be between me and my mother. I wondered if she knew I was leaving. I wondered if she thought of me. I wiped the sadness away because I was going on a great adventure. I was leaving my home country for the United States of America. I didn't know too much about the country as I was only in 3rd grade when I left Brandon, Manitoba. Up until then, I only studied Canadian history in school, and I knew the Canadian National Anthem and The Oath of Citizenship by heart because we recited it every school morning in class.

I didn't know what to expect in this new country, but I was optimistic because I already met my new parents, and they were awfully nice to me.


Soon after arriving at my new home where I held such high hopes, reality hit me the first time I was struck by my new father for not following his instructions. The honeymoon period in the new home was short-lived. It was replaced by angry voices, threats and glares.

The only thing that remained true and sweet was the sound of the wood thrush bird as it would beautifully sing outside my window, reminding me of my faraway homeland and family.

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