The Writers' Voice-"A Little Girl" by Pamela Nekolny Haring

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"A Little Girl"
by Pamela Nekolny

A little girl. So tiny. 10 fingers. 10 toes.
Two arms, two legs, two eyes, two ears. Eyes that would not cry.
A nose that would not sniffle. A mouth that opened in a soundless plea.

She was four months old; less than two kilos.

Her Brazilian mama gave birth to a beautiful, healthy little girl, but could not care for her. So she used all of her love to give her daughter away, hoping for a home to love and care for her precious wonder.

Her American mama gave wishes and dreams to this wonderful child. Dreams for a home filled with love and many arms to hold her. Wishes for a happy, healthy and full life.

Her American grandparents gave her dresses. Frilly ones, silly ones, red ones, pink and yellow and lavender ones. They gave her a rose when she couldn't come home.
A memorial rose for this dear little girl.

Her Brazilian caretakers and judge and clerks gave her something, too. They gave her one chance to eat; whenever she did not, they moved on to the next child. Crib after crib after crib of children.

Her Brazilian mama did not know this.
Her American mama did not know this.
Her social worker did not know this.

Months of excitement and planning years, actually and then the day arrived. Prepared to exclaim, "Eu estoy su mamae; I am your mother," the American mamae, flew into Salvador, Brasil, expecting to be greeted by a little blanket filled with baby.

She was greeted by a message, telling her to take a cab.

Undaunted, she followed instructions to meet the social worker, soon to exclaim, "Eu estoy su mamae."
Small problem. Child not released. Go to the orphanage on the morrow. Do not worry. All will be well.

All was not well. Baby not at orphanage.

Spurious trip to the hospital. A small, sparsely supplied hospital. American taken into a room to wait. Then another and another. Then, a look through barred windows. There was her child.

A little girl. So tiny. 10 fingers. 10 toes.
Two arms, two legs, two eyes, two ears. Eyes that would not cry.
A nose that would not sniffle. A mouth that opened in a soundless plea.

Hurried trips to the phone. More cabs. More rooms in which to wait. New hospital. Child is dehydrated. Child is starving. Child cannot cry.

No, you may not see her. Come back tomorrow.

Three days in Brasil. Still no baby. But the time arrives.
Little plastic box. Little child within.
Cheeks are fuller. Eyes can close in sleep.
Mouth can cry in complaint. Small miracle.

Time's up. Must leave. Come back tomorrow. Feed her then.

Walk the streets; watch a picture box filled with foreign-sounding words. Wait till the time to say,
"Eu estoy su mamae." The day arrives. Walk to hospital alone. There is the plastic box. There is the child. There is a tiny doll botttle.

Don yellow gown. Don yellow hat. Don yellow gloves. Reach into the box.
"Eu estoy su mamae, Alyssa. I'm here now. All will be well."
Little lips tugged on the bottle; little eyes squinted out their tears.
One finger to touch the child; one finger covered her back.

Time's up. Must leave. Come back tomorrow.

Walk the streets; watch a picture box; reserve the phone for calls to shout the news: Alyssa ate today! Alyssa cried today! Surely all will be right.

Awaken at daybreak. Shower in strange fixtures; eat strange breakfast food; walk strange streets. Memorize everything, to tell this sweet child all about her beginnings when she is 4 and 5 and 6 and 7. Hospital appears around the corner. Walk to the ward. Grab the yellow gown and hat and gloves. Look for the plastic box.

It is empty.

Oh, she must be better. They took her out of the special ward. Where is she? Can anyone tell; where is she?

Nurses smiling. Aides smiling. All the while speaking in portugesa. How will she be found if they cannot speak English? The American mamae's Portuguese isn't that good. She studied for months, to learn; but only a tape taught the sounds.

Finally. Someone speaks French. They will say where she is.

Elle est morte.

Dead. Alyssa is dead. People smile while a baby dies.
One of millions. It happens every day.
The judge says it is a pity; just pick out another one. As if she were a melon at the market.

"It is more than a pity!" the American mamae exclaims, astonishing the judge with her ability to understand and speak in portugesa. "She was a life! She was a baby! She had two mothers, six grandparents, and an entire community waiting for her back home!

It is a pity. Pick out another one.

Alyssa Marie; there is no one to replace you.




A little girl. So tiny. 10 fingers. 10 toes.
Two arms, two legs, two eyes, two ears. Eyes that would not cry.
A nose that would not sniffle. A mouth that no longer opens in a soundless plea.

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