January 18, 2000
For more than six years, Bonnie and I helped a single mother raise her two daughters, Sabrina from age 7 on, and Ana from birth on. Starting when Ana was only 4 months old, our goddaughters stayed overnight with us every Friday night, and whenever they were sick or their mom needed a break.
When we met Ginny, the girls' mom, she was pregnant with Ana, and living with 7 year-old Sabrina in the basement of a couple from the church we attended. We lived in an apartment building about a mile away. For most of the next 4 years, we all lived in the same apartment building, making it easy for us to help Ginny raise the girls. Sabrina had lived in a house for a few years when she was younger, but Ana lived in apartments from the day she was born.
Living in an apartment is tough for a little kid. They want to run and laugh and march and play and make noise, but in an apartment, someone is always telling them to be quiet so that they won't bother the neighbor above them, the neighbor below them, or the neighbors on either side of them.
In July of 1993, after more than 18 years of living in apartments, Bonnie and I finally bought a 20 year-old house on a 1 1/2 acre lot out in the country, about 20 minutes from Ginny and the girls. I'll always remember the first time I picked up the girls and took them to our "new" house.
We gave them a tour of the whole house, pointing out that each of them now had their own bedrooms, which neither of them had never had before. At the end of the tour, we ended up standing in the middle of the living room. I said to them, "You know, one of the best things about living in a house is that you can make noise and it won't bother anyone." Ana looked at me, wondering what was going to come next. I pointed out the window at one neighbor's house, about 250 feet away. "Look how far away that neighbor is." They looked.
I had their attention. I continued. Pointing, I said, "Nobody lives underneath us. Nobody lives above us. And the neighbors on either side are so far away that they can't hear us, either. They can't hear you, even if you yell or stomp your feet or anything!"
Both girls grinned. Ana spoke up. "You mean we can make lots of noise if we want to?" I smiled. "You sure can! Go ahead and make as much noise as you want!"
Ana looked at me again, to make sure that I wasn't kidding. I smiled at her. A second later, she started marching, stomping her feet loudly as she circled the living room, shouting, "Yah! Yah! Yah!" (it rhymes with "mama"). Sabrina turned and looked at me embarrassed, as if to say, "Kids - what are you gonna do with 'em?" After a couple of laps, Ana suddenly stopped, glanced at me, and started laughing wildly, like a "mad doctor" in a cartoon. "HA, HA, HA, ha, ha, ha!" Then she started stomping around in a circle again. "Yah! Yah! Yah! Yah!"
It was as though she was finally letting out all of the yelling and stomping and noise-making that she had pent up for the first 4 years of her life. And she was loving every second of it!
After a few more laps, she stopped and began laughing wildly again. Three or four more times, she stomped, then laughed, then stomped, then laughed. Finally, she fell onto a sofa, laughing so hard that she couldn't even stand up.
For several weeks after that, every time the girls came over, and as soon as she came in the house, Ana would do a couple of laps, grinning and stomping around the living room, shouting, "Yah! Yah! Yah!" and then laugh wildly, knowing that, finally, she wasn't bothering anyone at all.
Stories By Bob
Bob and Bonnie's Home Page