Buddy: View from the Pumpkin Seat
The latest book from author Holly Schlaack will be released March 1, 2018. Read Endorsements and an Excerpt below.
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“Holly Schlaack has written a unique book that gives readers a view of the perspective of a small child in the foster care system. As a former county prosecuting attorney, I have had first-hand experience with kids in the foster care system. And, as Ohio Attorney General, I have seen the need for foster families dramatically increase as the opiate crisis has continued to plague our state. hope readers will pick up this book, learn more about what foster kids face in their daily lives, and be moved to help kids like Buddy.”
-Mike DeWine, Ohio Attorney General
“Buddy is a masterful, once-in-a-decade real-world intersect of child and community. Too many times, the accounts of abused or neglected children go untold; rarely are their stories heard from a child’s perspective. The author blends this intersection by illustrating-through the eyes of a baby-daily life in the foster care system.”
-Jon Fishpaw, System Vice President of Advocacy and Government Relations, Mercy Health.
“I did not expect to so thoroughly enjoy reading about kids in the foster care system – or to have such a deep and visceral reaction seeing life through the eyes of little Buddy. This is required reading for anyone who cares about kids and the future of our society.”
-Laren Bright, Award winning children’s television animation writer
“Telling the story of the successes and failures of the foster system through little Buddy’s eyes is a stroke of genius. It wasn’t until I became a foster mom that I realized the overwhelming number of invisible foster children in my own community, and the desperately under-resourced network of foster families and case workers who do so much with so little. This book is a must-read for anyone considering becoming a foster parent or adopting through the foster care system.”
— Alissa Hauser, The Pollination Project Foundation
“This innovative book brings the hidden world of foster babies into the spotlight through the eyes of Buddy, a foster baby who teaches us how simple his needs are, and how easily they are overlooked by the very child welfare system created to protect him. The story of Buddy comes at a time when foster care is overflowing with 437,000 infants, children and youth in desperate need of safety, stability and love. Hope only wins when we say yes to getting involved in the lives of these most vulnerable and defenseless citizens. Your first step is reading this book.”
-Peter Samuelson, President and CEO, First Star, Inc., www.firststar.org
I don’t feel so good. I usually never do, but this is worse. And scary.
The straps on my car seat are cutting into my shoulders. I’m used to stuff hurting, but not like this.
I’m moving so fast my belly tumbles up and down. If I had bigger hands, I’d hold onto the sides for dear life, but I can’t. I’m too little.
The man driving is screaming at my mom and she is screaming at him, too. They do that a lot. I never scream, though. I did a few times and that was a really bad idea. It made everything way worse. That’s when I learned a new trick. It’s my disappearing trick. I stay very quiet and pretend no one can see or hear me.
We go faster and faster and the screaming gets louder. It’s always a little crazy with these people, but not this crazy.
I shut my eyes as tight as I can to make the flashing lights go away. My ears hurt from the pounding sirens. Screeeeech. I slam against the straps in my car seat so hard maybe my head will pop off. I can’t breathe.
The car doors swing open and my mom and the man run fast, fast, far away from me. Cold air hits my face. It feels good, so I take a deep breath even though the air makes my eyes water and my throat itchy. I have no idea what to do, not that there’s much I can do anyway.
So I just sit and wait for what will come next. I’ve been around long enough to know Something always comes next. Sometimes it’s better. Usually it is worse. It’s always a little scary, no matter what.
A bright light slowly moves across the car, so I try my disappearing trick. I stay as still as I can and don’t even move a finger. The light creeps closer and closer until it shines on the edge of my seat and hits my face. My heart is pounding. My disappearing trick won’t work.
The Something Next is here.
* * *
“Well, well, little buddy, what do we have here?”
The light makes a circle above my head and two big, warm hands loosen the tight straps. I come face to face with a big man I’ve never seen before. He wears a hat on his giant head and he’s dressed in a dark color. I don’t know who he is or what he will do to me.
All I know is, I can’t just stay quiet and out of the way. I can’t go anywhere or do anything. I’m just here and scared and tired and hungry. There’s only one thing left to do at a time like this. I close my eyes and scream and scream and scream as loud and hard as I can.
I might never stop.
* * *
The thing about screaming is, it does stop. It has to. And since my superpower is not screaming forever, I’m going to have to stop eventually.
Might as well be now.
My screaming settles into crying and I open my eyes.
“Hush now, little buddy, you’re okay.” Warm Hands is talking softly. His arms are wrapped around me and I lay against his chest while he slightly sways. His huge hands are kind of scratchy. Who cares?
I look for my mom but I don’t see her anywhere. I don’t see the man who lives with us either.
I think they left me. I hope Warm Hands doesn’t leave me, too.
* * *
I might be just a baby, but I know all about hands. I’ve felt all kinds of hands since I got here ten months ago and trust me, some are good and some are bad. Some hands, like the ones driving the car, are rough. Sometimes I’m sleeping and those hands just pick me up by my leg. When I’m hungry, sometimes those hands shove a bottle into my mouth so hard, I can’t breathe.
But some hands are good though, like Warm Hands, which took me out of that smoky car where my mom left me. Or the hands of the two ladies who live next door with a bunch of kids. Their hands always make me feel better.
My mom’s hands are the hardest to figure out. Sometimes they do things like hold me and feed me and then suddenly bam, they turn mean and they hurt. One time, her hand pinched me under my arm. Another time, it hit me hard on my leg. With her, I never know for sure which hands I’m going to get, but at least I’m used to it. Besides, usually they’re better than they are bad.
“It’s freezing,” Warm Hands says to a lady wearing a hat just like Warm Hands. She wraps a soft blanket around me and I peek out from its edge. There are lots of cars with red and blue lights, but they aren’t loud anymore. I’m glad.
“Poor thing,” the lady says. “He’s filthy. Probably has bed bugs. Don’t take ‘em home with you.”
“I know. I hope he doesn’t. If he does, well, I guess that’s just another job hazard.” Warm Hands pauses before he talks again. “Did you see the back seat? I can’t for the life of me understand how a parent can deal drugs with a baby in the back seat—not to mention taking him on a high-speed chase and then abandoning him.”
“They’re the kind who probably shouldn’t have a kid in the first place,” she tells him. “It’s happening more and more. Last week, it was a toddler. The week before that, ages four and five.”
“I just can’t wrap my head around it, no matter how many times I see it. I mean, aren’t parents supposed to have some kind of instinct to protect that kicks in?”
“Not if addiction trumps it.” The woman reaches out and rearranges the blanket so it covers all of me, including my head. “I never get used to seeing it either, though. I wish we had a hat for him. Not much hair to cover that little head. He’s gotta be cold.”
Being a little cold is the least of my problems. Besides, it’s better than being stuck in that smoky car.
“Somehow, I’m not surprised his parents didn’t think to grab a hat for him,” Warm Hands replies. He’s still swaying, just a tiny bit. It feels good here in his arms.
“Any idea what his name is?”
“Nope, but he sure can scream. Right, Buddy?” I think about looking up at Warm Hands’ face, but I’m too scared, so I don’t.
“Maybe he’s hungry. Does he have a bottle?” she asks.
“Not one fit for a baby to touch, let alone drink out of. It was laying on the seat next to him, along with some dirty needles. There was a diaper bag in the back of the car. Not much in it, just a couple diapers. Some kind of dirty outfit. I hoped we’d find something with his name, but there’s nothing.”
“You need this?” A man walks toward us carrying my seat.
“His pumpkin seat? How’s the condition?” Warm Hands asks.
“Surprisingly, it’s a new model and looks alright. Should be safe to keep as a car seat. Just a little dirty. Reeks of cigarette smoke.”
“I’ll take it,” the lady says and the man hands it over.
“Dan, we need you over here,” a deep voice calls out. There are different voices everywhere. I’m used to lots of voices, so they don’t bother me.
“Can you take him?” Warm Hands asks the woman. She sets my seat on the ground and holds out her arms. I move from him to her. The blanket slips off my head.
“Please don’t have bed bugs,” she says very quietly, like she doesn’t want anyone to hear her. Her hands are soft, not scratchy. I liked his better, though.
“It’s gonna be okay, Buddy.” Warm Hands says as he pulls the blanket up so it rests on my head again. He pauses, and I think about looking for his face, but I don’t.
“Dan, you coming?” There’s that deep voice again. Warm Hands doesn’t move. I think he wants to stay here.
“Dan, go. We have an ambulance a couple minutes out. They’ll take care of Buddy. Don’t worry.”
“You’re in good hands, little buddy. You’re safe now.” I like his voice. He leans in and puts his hand on my belly but I still don’t look at his face. Then he’s gone.