It was early morning when I was sitting at a park near the Ocean watching as the waves grew and crashed when I began to hear a voice. It first felt like my imagination, but this time I felt something wasn’t right. I tried to remember which direction the voice came from and I headed in that direction. I headed to the road where the voice got louder, but not loud enough for me to understand, I began walking down the road. Then in the distance I saw someone, small, running towards me, out of breath but trying to say something.
I ran towards them and then I heard yelling, “Help! Help!”
“What’s wrong?” I yelled back. A young boy approached me, completely out of breath and exhausted.
“FIRE! FIRE! The house down the street! Mommy and daddy are still inside!” “Calm down, deep breaths, deep breaths, ok, this is important, show me where the house on fire is.” We walked for about a block and then I saw the smoke, I called 9-1-1. They arrived quickly, I informed them the parents may still be trapped inside. After 10 minutes they got the fire out, but the mom and dad had perished. I sat with the boy the whole time, after a while he mentioned his name was Henry Lacey, and then I remembered something, I know that name. It was the last name of my friends from college who I lost touch with, Samantha and Kyle Lacey, they got married after graduation and had a little boy. That boy's name was Henry. I didn’t recognize him since the last time I had seen him was when he was 2 years old, that was 4 years ago. After I realized this I heard one of the police officers talking.
“Boss, what do we do with the kid?”
“Bring him to the station, we’ll hold him there until we can contact foster care.” Then I remembered something else, I stood up to face the officer.
“Wait, that won’t be necessary, I’m Ellavive Stone. I’m his godmother.” Samantha and Kyle were adopted, I was the closest thing they had to a family so they made me his godmother. After not talking for so long I forgot about it.
Once I shared that the officers had me fill out a few forms and then I took Henry with me to my condo. It was small, two bedrooms with one bath.
When we walked in I gave him a little tour, “Here’s the living room, um, the kitchen’s straight, to the right is the hallway.” I led him there, I pointed to the left where the bathroom was, “That’s the bathroom, then my rooms to the right, and you’ll stay straight ahead here, which was my office but if you give me a few moments I can clear some stuff. Then set-up a foldable bed I have in the attic, how does that-?” Before I could finish my sentence I found Henry snuggled up in my bed fast asleep, I pulled up his blanket making sure he was all tucked in.
The next morning I woke up early making myself and Henry some pancakes, I also called my mom to tell her what was going on.
“Mom you remember Samantha and Kyle from college, the couple who had a kid?”
“I found their 6 year old son running in the street yesterday, he escaped a fire that burst in the rental home they were staying in because they live 2 states away. Anyway, they died in the fire and I’m Henry's godmother so now I’m taking care of him.” It was silent for a moment.
“Wow that is a lot of information at once. When did this happen?”
“Yesterday? Why didn’t you call last night? I could come to help you?”
“I don’t know. I was kinda busy, can you come now and maybe bring some of Charlie’s old clothes and toys?”
“Of course! I’ll be there in twenty minutes. I can pick up some snacks at the store too, what do you think he’ll like? Pop-tarts?” Then I started to hear Henry panicking in the other room while my mom continued. “Chips? Popcorn? Maybe I should just get a few lunchables.” I continued to hear Henry freak out in the other room.
“I don’t know, figure it out, I've got to go.” I hung up and walked into my room. Henry was whining rocking back and forth on the bed, when he saw me he jumped up and hugged me tight. I knelt down to meet him in the hug, he began to cry.
“It’s okay Henry I’m right here. You’ve been through a lot, let it all out.” After he calmed down I began to leave for the kitchen but he started crying again.
“What’s wrong?” He just kept sniffling but wouldn’t speak.
“If you tell me then I can help you.” but he still wouldn’t speak. Then I got an idea which made me smile big.
“Do you like chocolate chip pancakes?” I said. He started to smile, shaking his head yes. I brought him to the kitchen, settling him at the table with utensils, a plate, and some orange juice. I gave him a chocolate chip pancake all cut up, then I poured on some syrup, when I put too much he quickly pushed me away. I sat down across from him.
“You should drink your orange juice.” He looked up and shook his head no.
“Do you not like orange juice?” He shook his head no again but this time motioned for a cup.
“Do you want some water?” He nodded, as I got his water I started to realize his trauma made him not want to talk, all the nods and hand gestures showed that. I shrugged it off for the moment, I figured he’d been through a lot and he’d need some time to adjust. We continued eating in silence so I put on some music, I only asked a question to see if he liked the food or not and he nodded. Then my mom walked in with 2 large bags.
“Hey, Honey I brought a lot of stuff. Here I have some old clothes, toys, and books. I went to the store and brought a whole bunch of snacks, we’ll see what he likes. Where is he, can I meet him?”
“Yes, he’s in the kitchen, but he’s a little-” Before I could finish she storms past me into the kitchen.
“Hi! I’m Ellavive’s Mom, you can call me Carol. What’s your name?” All he did was wave hi. My mother saw this and just waved again.
“Hi, what’s your name?” He didn’t do anything. Then I pulled my mom back into the living room.
“Mom I was trying to tell you he’s shy, like really shy, so take it slow.”
“Ok, ok, how about I show him the toys and books?”
“Sure, Henry come here.” He walked in.
My mom said, “I brought this stuff for you.” He looked down and saw the books, he pushed passed the books and then picked up a book called city dog, country frog. He pushed it towards me implying he wanted me to read it.
Then the doorbell rang again, I wasn’t sure who it could be. I opened the door and it was a man with a clipboard, I could see behind him a truck was in my driveway.
“You're the guardian of Henry Lacey?”
“We have all his belongings from the families house in Florida, where would you like us to put it?”
“Um the living room is fine.” They brought in all of Henry’s stuff and a few boxes of his parents' stuff. Henry seemed to take some comfort in seeing his stuff, but he was also very sad which was understandable.
The next day I went to the local school to register Henry.
“I’m sorry we can register Henry but Henry can’t come here if he can’t talk yet.”
“What? I don’t think this is permanent. He'll start talking once he sees other kids and adults?”
“Yes but until then he can’t communicate with the teacher. Don’t worry right when he starts talking again he’ll be able to come. And there’s things you can do, here’s our school counselor so we can set up some meetings with her.”
“Thank you. Anything else to suggest?”
“Like you said, try to introduce him with some kids or family.”
“Okay thank you.” I wasn’t really sure what to do, but home I asked Henry yes or no questions about school.
“Do you want to go to school Henry?” He nodded.
“Can you speak to answer me?” He did nothing and just looked down.
“That’s okay. Maybe we can do some speech therapy?” He aggressively shook his head no.
“No, ok we don’t have to do that yet. It’ll be our last try. For now let’s watch a movie.” I went onto Disney Plus, “Anything specific you want to watch.” He nodded.
“What?” He put his arms up and growled like a bear.
“Bear?” He nodded, so I looked up bear and he pointed to an option that said brother bear about a human turning into a bear and helping a bear cub who lost his mother.
“Brother Bear?’ He nodded, I guess he really likes animals.
A week later I decided to invite some of my family over to see if he’d talk that way. I invited my parents, (when he saw them he was more comfortable already knowing my mom) my brother, and my aunt and uncle. I filled them all in on the situation. They talked for a little bit and Henry got to know them, he smiled for a little while and I saw, everyone tried asking him questions but he would only answer by shaking his head or not at all.
“Are you excited for school soon?” My uncle asked. He nodded.
“Do you like reading?” My brother asked. He nodded.
My aunt asked, “What’s your favorite book?” he grabbed the book from the shelf.
“City Dog, Country Frog? That’s a good one?” He nodded hugging it.
My mom asked, “Can you tell us about it?” He didn’t answer.
“Just say what's your favorite part?” My aunt asked. I saw Henry thinking, very confused. He flipped to the last page and pointed to it, smiling.
My aunt said, “No, use your words.” He put down the book, and ran into my bedroom. I said, “Thank you guys for trying, maybe next time.” They left, I went to see Henry to see if I could do anything to make him feel better. When I walked in he was at the end of my bed all curled up in a ball. I sat next to him.
“Come here.” he scooched next to me and I gave him a hug. “You don’t have to talk today, or tomorrow, or even in a week. Take your time, and if you think it’s too scary, guess what?” He looked at me, “You're the strongest little boy I know.” He smiled.
The next week I tried something else, I brought some of my friends who have kids over to my house. They were all close to Henry’s age, 3 of them. They brought a football so they invited Henry to play with them.
“Henry you wanna play with us?” Jack asked. Henry started shaking his head, and he put his arms up as if he didn’t know.
I asked, “Do you know how to play Henry?” He shook his head no.
“Jack maybe you could teach Henry how to play and throw football?”
Jask answered, “Yeah, sure. Come on Henry!” Jack and the other two girls went out in the little front yard I had in the beautiful spring weather teaching Henry how to play football. I watched from the living room with the other moms and Henry seemed to be having fun, the other kids enjoyed playing with him. At one point I thought he was talking but he just yawned. Henry still wasn’t talking even though I tried introducing my family, playing with friends, I knew it was time to try the counseling classes. As much as he wouldn’t like it I knew it was for his own good.
Walking into the school Henry was very nervous and shy. We checked in with the office and went to the classroom with the counselor. She greeted us very enthusiastically when we walked in. A few days before I called her about his situation.
“Hi! Welcome!” She shook our hands, “I’m Ms. Hart, what’s his name?”
I responded, “This is Henry and I’m Ellavive.”
“Nice to meet you, come sit down.” We sat in the chairs in front of her desk.
“Henry, why do you think you're here?” He nodded.
“Because you're not talking right?” He nodded.
“Do you know why we want you to talk?” He shook his head no.
“Well, we want to know what’s going on with you, what you're thinking about only you know. We can’t know unless you talk, when you talk we can get you anything you need and we can help solve any problems you have. So what I’m gonna do is make little goals each week, they won’t be big, small goals, do you think you could do those?” He moved his arms up to say I don’t know.
“I think you can do it, but for today I’m just gonna have you play with some of the toys I have. So you do that now over there.” She pointed over to a shelf of toys and she played with Henry.
We went every week for a few weeks, but no luck. One day I asked Henry if he wanted some s’mores, I guess he didn’t know what they were so I was excited to show him. I went to my backyard, cleared out the standing fire pit, put in some new logs, newspaper, and lint, then I lit fire. Henry walked outside and saw the flames.
“FIRE! FIRE!” He yelled. He started crying, I ran towards him.
“Oh, Henry it’s okay. You’re okay.”
“But No! FIRE!”
“Henry this fire can’t hurt you. It’s contained, it won’t hurt you, it won’t hurt me.”
“B-but but-.” I held him tight trying to calm him down, rubbing his back.
“You’re okay, you’re okay, you’re okay.” He continued to whimper.
“Look at me, do you trust me?”
“Yeah.” He sniffled.
“I’m telling you, you are safe, okay?” He smiled in relief.
“Okay.” he replied.
“Alright, now we’re going to make some s’mores.” I took him to the pantry for some crackers, chocolate and marshmallows, we laid them down near our chairs that were around the fire. Then I took him to the woods to find some sticks. We walked back and I told him to put a marshmallow on his stick, then put the marshmallow over the fire.
“Your marshmallow is on fire!” he said.
“It’s okay, look I can just blow it out like this.” I blew it out. Then he did something that surprised me, he put his marshmallow in the fire, and then pulled it out. And he blew it out.
“Good job Henry! I’m so proud of you.” I said.
“Well, because a few minutes ago you were very afraid, but you stood up to that fear, that’s really brave.”
“Yes. And you spent a move not talking, and you spoke about what was bothering you. Then we had a whole conversation! I’m very proud of you, and I love you very much!”
“I love you too mom! Oh wait was I supposed to say that?”
“Yeah, you can call me mom. You're my boy, my boy Henry.”