I remember the first time I saw Freddie. He was standing in his playpen at the adoption agency where I work. He gave me a toothy grin. What a beautiful baby, I thought. His boarding mother gathered him into her arms. “Will you be able to find a family for Freddie?”
Then I saw it. Freddie had two stubs for arms. “He’s so smart. He’s only 10 months old, and already he walks and talks.” She kissed him. “Say ‘book’ for Mrs. Blair.” Freddie grinned at me and hid his head on his boarding mother’s shoulder. “Now, Freddie, don’t act that way,” she said. “He’s really very friendly,” she added. “Such a good, good boy.”
Freddie reminded me of my own son when he was that age, the same thick dark curls, the same brown eyes. “You won’t forget him, Mrs. Blair? You will try?” The boarding mother asked. “I won’t forget.” I answered. I went upstairs and got out my latest copy of the Hard-to-Place list.
Freddie’s ready, I thought. But who is ready for him?
It was 10 o’clock on a late-summer morning, and the agency was full of couples; couples having interviews, couples meeting babies, families being born. These couples nearly always have the same dream: They want a child as much like themselves as possible, as young as possible, and most important, a child with no problems. If he develops a problem after we get him, they say, That is a risk we’ll take just like any other parents. But to pick a baby who already has a problem, that’s too much. And who can blame them?
I wasn’t alone in looking for parents for Freddie. Any of the caseworkers meeting a new couple started with a hope: maybe they were for Freddie. But summer slipped into fall, and Freddie was with us for his first birthday.
On a late fall day, it started out as it always does an impersonal record in my box, a new case, a new Home Study, two people who wanted a child. They were Frances and Edwin Pearson. She was 41. He was 45. She was a housewife. He was a truck driver. I went to see them. They lived in a tiny white frame house, in a big yard full of sun and old trees. They greeted me together at the door, eager and scared to death. Mrs. Pearson produced steaming coffee and oven-warm cookies. They sat before me on the sofa, close together, holding hands.
After a moment, Mrs. Pearson began. “Today is our wedding anniversary. Eighteen years. Good years.” Mr. Pearson looked at his wife. “Except…” she said as she looked around the room. “It’s too neat, you know what I mean?” I thought of my own living room with my three children, teenagers now. “Yes, I said. I know what you mean.”
“Perhaps we’re too old?” I smiled. “You don’t think so,” I said. “We don’t either.”
“We’ve tried to adopt before this,” Mr. Pearson said. “One agency told us our apartment was too small, so we got this house. Then another agency said I didn’t make enough money. We had decided that was it, but this friend told us about you, and we decided to make one last try.” “I’m glad,” I answered.
Mrs. Pearson glanced at her husband proudly. “Can we choose at all?” she asked.
“A boy for my husband? We’ll try for a boy,” I said. “What kind of boy?”
Mrs. Pearson laughed. “How many kinds are there? Just a boy. My husband is very athletic. He played football in high school; basketball, too, and track. He would be good for a boy.”
Mr. Pearson looked at me. “I know you can’t tell exactly,” he said, “but can you give us any idea how soon? We’ve waited so long.” I hesitated. There is always this question. “Next summer, maybe.”
“That long?” Mr. Pearson said. “Don’t you have anyone at all? There must be a little boy somewhere that needs a family to love him.” After a pause he went on, “Of course, we can’t give him as much as other people. We haven’t a lot of money saved up… But we have got a lot of love saved up.”
“Well…” I said cautiously, “There is a little boy. He is 13 months old.” “Oh,” Mrs. Pearson said, “just a beautiful age.” “I have a picture of him,” I said, reaching for my purse. I handed them Freddie’s picture. “He is a wonderful little boy,” I said. “But he was born without arms.”
They studied the picture in silence. He looked at her. “What do you think, Fran?” “Soccer.” Mrs. Pearson said. “You could teach him soccer.” “Athletics are not so important,” Mr. Pearson said. “He can learn to use his head. Arms he can do without. A head, never. He can go to college. We’ll save for it.” “A boy is a boy,” Mrs. Pearson insisted. “He needs to play. You can teach him.” “I’ll teach him. Arms aren’t everything. Maybe we can get him some.”
They had forgotten me.
“Then you might like to see him?” They looked up. “When could we have him?” “You think you might want him?” Mrs. Pearson looked at me. “Might?” she said. “Might??” “Yes, we want him,” her husband answered. Mrs. Pearson looked back to the picture. “You’ve been waiting for us, haven’t you?” she said to little boy in the picture.
“We’ve been waiting for you.”
Author - Abbie Blair