JD’s Box

By: Angela B

Disclaimer: Not mine and never will be

Note: It might help if you read “Vin’s Box” first since it follows immediately afterwards.

Thanks to NT for her continued perseverance in helping improve my stories.

JD had no idea why Vin was so mad at him. Vin was not only his brother, but his roomy and closest buddy. Vin had never treated him like this before. Sure, they’d had their share of squabbles, but not without some reason. Vin’s behavior completely confused and hurt the nine-year-old. The youngster got out of his bedroom as fast as possible and headed down the hall. Seeing the next bedroom door opened, he slowly stepped in and leaned against the doorframe. Ezra was next oldest and pretty smart for only being fourteen.

Ezra, who had been bent over his own desk, looked up and said, “Hey, JD. What are you and…” stopping in mid-sentence, he changed his question. “What happened?”

JD took that as an invitation to walk further into the room. Stopping by the desk, he looked at his older and wiser brother and said, “Vin’s really mad at me and I don’t know why,” JD explained sadly. “Honest!” he added for insurance.

Ezra, having heard the slamming door, looked at his brother for a moment and then said, “Why don’t you tell me what happened?”

“I was looking at my memories and Vin walked in. I asked if he wanted to look with me and he got mad and said, ‘no’. Then, he told me to get out,” JD said.

“Maybe, Vin is just really sad instead of angry,” Ezra said, thinking about his brother’s reaction.

“Why?’ JD asked, curious as to why his memories would make Vin sad.

“Maybe…because he doesn’t have that many himself,” Ezra said, trying to feel his way through the explanation. Vin had only shared his box contents with him once and Ezra knew that Vin had very little. He also knew why.

JD thought about the explanation and finally said, “I could give him some of mine.”

Ezra thought about this before slowly saying, “But they wouldn’t be Vin’s memories, would they?”

“No,” JD said reluctantly. “I still don’t know why mine would make him so sad,” he stated after a moment.

Ezra scooted his chair around and motioned his brother closer. “Let’s do a little pretending and then maybe you’ll understand. Okay?”

“Okay,” JD agreed.

“Okay. We know that you went to the children’s home right before your mom died and then you came here. And that mom and dad let you bring all the memories you wanted, right?” Ezra asked.

JD nodded is head. He had been in the children’s home only one night before the Walkers had come and got him, but it had made a lasting memory.

“Okay, let’s pretend that instead of coming here, you had to got to another foster home first. And while you were there someone looked in your bag and took one of your memories. How would that make you feel?” Ezra asked.

“Angry. I would beat them up and get it back,” JD said defiantly, puffing out his small chest.

“Even if that person was as big as me, or Nathan or Josiah?” Ezra asked, cocking his eyebrow.

JD heaved a sigh. “No,” he admitted quietly.

“Okay, now pretend you had to go to other foster homes, and every time you went to a new foster home or back to the children’s home a memory was taken away from you,” Ezra continued, watching the sadness fill his little brother’s face.

“Now, pretend all you have in your bag is just a couple of things.” As Ezra spoke, JD’s face got sadder. “Then, you walk into this house and you walk into your room and see that Vin, who came straight here after his mom died, has a whole bunch of memories. How would that make you feel, seeing he has all his memories and you only having a couple of your own?” Ezra asked as he looked into his brother’s face.

“Awful,” JD whispered, gliding his hand back and forth on the polished desk. “What can I do, then?” JD asked in sincerity, looking at his older brother with pleading eyes.

“I’m not sure, JD,” Ezra answered truthfully.

“I…I could quit looking at my box and put it away,” JD offered. The offer was made from love, but the look of despair in his brother’s eyes made Ezra cringe.

Ezra sighed. “That would be very nice, but that’s not fair to you,” he said softly.

“There’s got to be something,” JD insisted. Standing there thinking for a moment, his face suddenly lit up. “I know! I could take my box somewhere else: like Buck’s room or the study. Somewhere where Vin wouldn’t have to see it!” JD exclaimed, happy with himself that he had thought of the idea.

“That, JD is a very good idea,” Ezra congratulated his little brother. He knew it was not the greatest solution, but JD had thought of it and he wanted the younger boy to feel good about his decision.

“Thanks Ezra,” he shouted, before bounding out of the room and hopped down the stairs, bumping into Josiah and Nathan, who were standing at the base. They, too, had heard the slamming of the door and had been debating whether intervention was needed. When no more sounds had come forth, both had decided the matter had been resolved.

“Hey, squirt! What are you up to? Were you and Vin having problems?” Josiah asked.

“Well, kinda. But then Ezra explained it all and me, and Ezra decided I should play with my memory box in Buck’s room or somewhere else from now on,” JD answered, looking at his big brother, with a smile.

“You…and Ezra?” Josiah asked hesitantly. Ezra may have a few faults, like being manipulative and occasionally lying when he felt it necessary, but being mean wasn’t one of them.

“Well, actually it was all my idea. It’s still a good one, right? Ezra said it was,” JD stated.

Josiah, who was completely in the dark about the problem, asked, “Why would you have to go somewhere else to play with your box?”

“So it doesn’t make Vin sad,” JD said. “Ezra explained it. He said it made Vin sad because it hurt when he saw how many things I got to keep because I didn’t have to go to all those other homes like he did,” JD explained.

“Oh,” Nathan and Josiah said together.

“I’m going to Buck’s room now, okay?’’ JD said as he passed the two brothers.

“Okay,” Josiah said, still trying to process the whirlwind conversation.

After JD had left the room, Nathan turned to Josiah and said, “Think I’ll wander upstairs and check things out.”

Josiah looked at the senior; for a young person, Nathan took a lot upon his shoulders. “You sure you don’t want me to go talk to him,” Josiah offered. He had hesitated to make the offer, not knowing how Nathan would take it. Since coming back home, it seemed everyone’s roles had been rewritten. Josiah was still trying to figure out how to take over the guardian role and still be a big brother to his younger siblings without stepping on Nathan’s territory.

“It’s okay, I got it,” Nathan said.

Josiah nodded and watched the senior head up the stairs. He was considering all the things he needed to get done when JD came back out of the room. The big brother could sense something was still wrong. “What’s up, pal?” he asked casually.

JD looked up at his tall brother. “I was wondering,” he began. “Would it make you sad too if I shared my memories?”

Josiah smiled down at JD. “Not at all,” he said. “But you think we could do it in the kitchen? I really got to get supper started before I have a handful of unhappy brothers ganging up on me,” he said with a smile.

“Sure,” JD consented and followed Josiah into the kitchen.

The nine-year-old sat down at the table and lifted the lid that held his past. There were so many things about his life before coming to live here that he could still remember. He lifted out a picture of himself. He knew was taken when he was four, it was written on the back, but he still remembered having it taken. His mother had taken him to get a haircut. The barber had put a bench seat across the arms of the barber chair and lifted him up onto it. After his hair had been cut and washed, the barber had put him back down on the floor and he had told his mom he could probably run much faster. His mother had just laughed and coaxed him to try it out. He had run down the sidewalk and then back to her. She had claimed he was indeed running much faster. JD smiled at the memory. He still got that same feeling when buying new tennis shoes. His mother had always claimed he was the best child, or the smartest kid in the world, or simply the most loved. JD sighed. His heart always hurt a little when he thought of her. Knowing now he had so much more of her than Vin had of his made it worse. JD looked up to find Josiah standing over him with a concerned loving look. “She was the best,” JD choked out.

“Yeah?” Josiah questioned, prompting his brother to open up. For all his talking, JD sometimes got very tight-lipped about his life before coming into the family, except when sharing his box.

JD looked back into his box. “Yeah,” he said with a heavy sigh. “It was always just her and me. I never knew my dad or any other family. She never talked about them,” JD explained.  “I asked her about my grandparents once. All she said was they weren’t worth knowing,” he finished sadly. Looking at his brother, who had sat down beside him, JD said, “Talking about them made her so sad, I never mentioned them again.”

Josiah put an arm around JD and just sat in the silence letting the youngster guide the conversation.

JD looked at his box of things. He had only been a month away from being seven when his mother had died. He had been crushed when the only person in his world that loved him had left him behind. JD could feel tears filling his eyes and he took a deep breath. He wouldn’t cry. He was too old to cry anymore. Running his fingers through the belongings, his fingers hit upon a bracelet. Picking it up, he let it dangle from his fingers, remembering how it would jangle off his mother’s wrist. The sun catching it in the lights and sparkling like real gold. In the end the bracelet had become so loose on his mother’s thinning wrist that, if not for her knuckles, it would have easily slipped off.

“I bought this for her from the school store when I was in first grade,” JD said softly. “She treated it like it was really precious, even if it was just a dollar.”

“She appreciated the thoughtfulness of her son,” Josiah offered.

JD smiled, still looking at the bracelet. “She did everything she could to make me know I was loved,” he whispered.

“I bet she did,” Josiah responded, knowing the woman had to have instilled a lot of love into the child to make him so loving himself.. He briefly thought he should get back to fixing supper, but decided the boys could snack if they got too hungry. This was more important.

JD raked his fingers through the treasures looking for something else special to share. The problem was that he had shared everything with everyone in the house, so that nothing felt special anymore. He knew Josiah’s cross was his special memory; Vin had his dad’s badge, he had seen Vin holding it at night; and Buck had George the Monkey. He was pretty sure Nathan, Chris and Ezra had their special memories too, even though they never shard their boxes.

Everything his mother had or had given him meant something special to him. Still combing his fingers through the items, he found an old hanky. It was cotton with lace embroidered around the edges and a blue flower in one of the corners. It felt very fragile, like his mother in the end. His mother never told him where it came from. Picking it up carefully, he remembered when he had first started school, he had cried at the beginning when his mother left him at the door. It seemed that he had cried over lots of little things: dead animals on the side of the road; being the smallest in his class; kid movies like Bambi; the list went on and on. His mother had told him he had a soft heart and there was nothing wrong with that, that it was a good thing. It showed he was a caring person. The kids at school, though, had taunted him, calling him a crybaby. At that time, and sometimes still, JD found himself having a hard time figuring life out. What was acceptable and what wasn’t, how he was supposed to act and be accepted by others. It was those difficult times that he missed his mom the most. She’d always had a way of making him feel like he was doing just fine being the person he was. One day, his mother had given him the hanky and told him to stick it in his pocket and when he felt the tears coming to put his hand in his pocket and squeeze his emotions into the hanky. When his mother had been her worst at the end, the hanky had been used endlessly.

The nine-year-old put the hanky back down, not wanting Josiah to know why he had a hanky. He feared his oldest brother would think he, too, was a crybaby. He let his rummaging fingers glide over a small kite-shaped emblem knitted in different hues of blue. His mom had called it a God’s Eye, which had completely baffled the then six-year-old boy. His mother had been learning to knit before she got so sick. When he had questioned his mother why she was learning to knit, she had said it was important for a person to always learn new things, it had something to do with the brain and rust, but JD couldn’t remember what. It had been too long ago now. JD had grown to like the steady clicking of the needles. He remembered his mother promising to knit him a sweater the coming winter. They had even picked out the color, a bright red. Then she had gotten sick and the needles were put to the side and were never picked up again.

Josiah could tell that this trip down memory lane for his brother was different than normal. Usually, JD was very talkative about his life with his mother and all the things he could remember about his time with her. Today, he seemed more depressed and withdrawn. Putting aside his ‘counselor’ side, Josiah knew what his little brother needed was a brother who understood what it was like to loose one’s self, being forced to rebuild a new life. The two sat in silence as JD let his mind wander through his memories.

JD thought about the time during his mother’s illness. It had been a very sad time, but also filled with a lot of laughter. He had watched his mother go from a very healthy, albeit petite, woman with jet-black hair down to the middle of her back, to a thin, fragile skeletal person with not a bit of her beautiful hair left. His mother had never lied to him about her illness. She had explained in simple terms what ovarian cancer was and had allowed him to go several times with her to the doctors and a couple of times when she had received chemo. He had been there to fetch a glass of 7-Up or wet a washcloth when she had been so sick that all she could do was lie on the bathroom floor. She hadn’t lied to him when it became apparent she was going to lose her battle either. She had tried to prepare him for the different scenarios she thought might happen to him, from being adopted, to being placed in a group home. She didn’t want him to be unprepared. She had always believed a child that was informed had a better chance of coping in the world. Throughout it all, she had kept her sense of humor and had always found something to joke and laugh about.

JD recalled when his mother had seen a movie where a mother had been dying and had sought out finding a family for her children before she died. JD’s mother began trying to do the same. She contacted Social Services and asked what she could do to locate a family for her son. She mailed out announcements to church organizations, talked to lawyers and eventually placed an adoption ad on an Internet site.

JD ran his fingers through his trinkets lost in the past. He had come home one day to find his weakened mother smiling in happiness. She had motioned him over to her bed, he had carefully climbed up beside her and she had told him what she thought was good news; to JD it was devastating. “I have found a family for you,” she said wearily, but with a smile.

JD recalled screaming, “No!” He knew she had been looking, but having her find him a new family made it real. He hated hearing his mother talk of him going to live with another family. He wanted her to fight, to live, to stay with him forever. His dying mother had slipped her hand over his cheek. “I know you don’t want a new family, baby, but I have to make sure you’re going to be okay,” she had told him.

JD sniffed his tears back, feeling Josiah strong hand gently squeezing his shoulder in comfort. That had been the worse day of his life he had thought.

“She always said she found y’all for me because she loved me so much,” JD whispered brokenly. “I always thought if she loved me, she would stay.” JD didn’t look at Josiah, as he said, “Kinda babyish, huh? She was doing her best and I didn’t appreciate it.”

“Not at all,” Josiah offered. “It’s not babyish to want your mom to stay with you. I think we’ve all felt that in some way or another,” he said.

JD stared at his box until his vision blurred and his mind was back with his mom. He had lain down next to his mother and gently wrapped his arm over her mid-section. She had rasped out the bare details she had learned about the Walkers. She had told him he was going to have six brothers to play with and would never be lonely again. He had worried. “What if they don’t like me?” he had asked. She had reassured him that there wasn't anyone who couldn't love him. Over the next five weeks the mother and the Walker’s communicated by e-mail and occasionally the Walkers would call. JD became adapted to talking to the Walkers and a few times to Buck and Vin. He had only heard about the others.

JD picked up an action toy and squeezed it tight as the memories he tried hard not to remember flooded back. The hospice nurse who came and took care of his mother when she got too sick to get out of bed had given the toy to him. The nice woman had always bought casseroles or something to eat for him and his mom, although his mom quit eating at the end. The nurse also washed his clothes and played with him sometimes in the afternoon. The night his mother had gotten so sick, they were between nurse shifts and alone, he had called 911 in fear. He remembered he had been so terrified he just wanted to be told it would be okay. In desperation for adult comfort he had hit the speed dial and found himself crying on the phone to Bobby. The man had tried to console him from thousands of miles away and had talked to him until the police and ambulance had shown up and taken him and his mother to the hospital. That night, as the near seven-year-old lay in a strange bed in an emergency foster home, he wished someone would come make it all better.

Late the next afternoon Bobby and Janis had shown up at the foster home. The minute Bobby had introduced himself to the foster woman, JD had leapt into his strong arms. It had felt right from that moment on. They had taken him to the hospital to see his mom. She had been so tiny, JD had thought. A lawyer had shown up and papers of intention were signed, making JD the seventh son of Bobby and Janis Walker, though technically it would be three more months before the adoption was made final. Oddly, his and Vin’s adoption was made legal at the same time. That afternoon, holding tightly to Bobby’s hand, JD said goodbye to his mom for the last time. Bobby had picked him up and carried him out of the room while Janis had stayed behind and held the woman’s hand as she slipped away. His mother had made it known that she didn’t want JD to witness her actually passing away. Later, Bobby and Janis had taken JD back to his house and let him take whatever he wanted to. After attending the funeral, the three of them had gotten on a plane and headed for his new home.

JD put the action toy back and looked down at his box. It wasn’t until that moment that he realized the greatest thing he had from his life with his mother was the family he had now. Of all the things he had, the Walkers, his brothers, were the thing that showed him how much love his mother really had for him. Lifting his hand from the box, he turned and climbed into a surprised Josiah’s lap. Wrapping his arms tightly around Josiah’s neck, he said with a smile, “She would have loved you as much as I do.”

Josiah, lost for words, held his baby brother tightly and sent up a silent ‘thank you’ to the woman who had blessed them with this special brother.


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