The big blue eyes of the new little boy, Albert, held all the misery of an outcast spaniel. His reddish-blond hair needed cutting, and his thin, freckled arms hugged his bony knees as he sat huddled there in the office doorway.
“Why, son,” the superintendent’s wife said as she came through the doorway, nearly stumbling over the boy, “I’ve told you, you can’t come inhere! You must stay in your own dormitory with the other boys.”
She stooped to help him to his feet, but he turned and hugged her knees convulsively. “Can’t you see, kind lady?” He began to cry. “I got no mommy. I got nobody but Laura Mae. We hafta have a mommy–they put ours in a deephole.
“Mrs. Chitwood’s eyes grew moist with compassion. She pulled the little boy over to a rocker, sat down, and held him in her arms. “You’ll be all right in just a little while, Albert,” she said consolingly. “There are so many nice boys and girls here to play with. There are all those nice swings in the playground.” She kept on murmuring comfortingly, as is the way of mothers, as dusk crept in over the Children’s Home.
The little boy was only four years old, and the records showed that both his parents were dead. His little sister Laura Mae, who was only three, had come with him to the Tipton Home. Evidently she was too young to understand. She hadn’t given way to tears as Albert was doing. She had stayed in her dormitory with the other little girls of her age. But Albert had come back to the office where he had first seen the “kind lady” he was now so fond of.
Soon, as Mrs. Chitwood rocked and crooned softly to Albert, his eyes closed and he slept. His long lashes curled on his tear-streaked cheeks. The two big freckles on his small snub nose made him look all the more vulnerable. Holding him tenderly in her arms, Mrs. Chitwood got up, carried him down the long corridor to his dormitory, and put him in his own small bed. She pressed a light switch, and instantly dim stars bloomed in the ceiling, which stretched like a blue sky over the rows of small beds where other little boys were sleeping. She stooped and took off Albert’s shoes, pushed the hair out of his eyes, and kissed his tear-stained little face.
“Bless you, honey,” she said softly. “I wish I could be your mother.” She blinked back tears and tiptoed from the room. Somehow Albert tore at her heart.
In those years the superintendent and his wife lived in an apartment on the second floor of the administration building. They also ate in the big dining room with the children.
Early the next morning Mrs. Chitwood opened the door of her apartment, and again she almost stumbled over the small boy huddled in the doorway. “Why, Albert!” she exclaimed. “Kind lady,” he smiled, “I’m a big boy now. I’m not gonna cry today. I gotta take care of Laura Mae like I told my mom–” His voice wavered, but he swallowed and went on. “My mommy told me not to cry, and to be sure to take good care of my little sister. “”Of course, Albert.” Mrs. Chitwood smiled as she took his hand and they started walking toward the big dining room. “I knew last night you’d be a big, strong boy this morning. There are a lot of boys and girls here. You’ll like them all, and you’ll be happy, I know.
“”That’s right–’cause I got you. You’re my new mother.” Confident and serene, he looked up into her face. “No, dear,” she said gently. “There are two hundred other little boys and girls here. I love them all. I can’t have any special little boy who’s just my own, but I’ll love you, and everybody else will love you, too. “Albert shook his head and insisted that she was to be his mother.
“Can’t you ‘dopt me? The boys said people ‘dopt boys, and the ladies are just like real mothers. “Mrs. Chitwood smiled. “No, dear, I can’t adopt you. But I can love you and take care of you, and you’ll soon feel that this is your home and that all the other boys and girls are your brothers and sisters.”
They were entering the dining room. As Mrs. Chitwood led Albert to the small table where he was to sit with other boys of his age, he whispered, “I’ll ‘dopt you then, kind lady–you’re my ‘dopted mother. “”Sh!” She smiled as they both bowed their heads for grace to be said.
This was just the beginning. Again and again throughout the day Albert ran into the office to ask questions. Could he go play on the girls’ side of the play area with Laura Mae? Could he climb the apple tree and eat as many apples as he could hold in his hands or maybe tie in his shirt? He asked a dozen questions that could have been answered by his own housemother.
Each time the superintendent would scold Albert and end him out of the office. “Albert,” he said finally, “this is a busy place, and the children aren’t allowed in here. You’ve got to stay way.
“Albert’s face feel for a moment, then he flashed that warm smile. “But my ‘dopted mother works here. I had to ask her something. “Mrs. Chitwood’s heart reached out in love to the lonely little boy who so obviously adored her.
He was everything any mother could ever have dreamed of, and he needed her. He showed his love in so many wonderful ways–the wild flowers he gathered and held out to her in his pudgy hands, the blue eggs from the robin’s nest. Openly and with all his childish heart he had transferred his need for love to Mrs. Chitwood.: I know we can’t treat him any differently from the other children, “she’d reason with her husband. “No, of course not, dear,” he said. “You must make him understand he can’t be sitting on our doorstep every morning. “”I know that. His housemother is frantic when she find him out of his bed every morning. “She tried hard to make Albert understand these things, but she got nowhere. Whenever she began to scold him, he threw his arms around her neck and, “I love You. You’re the nicest mother any boy could ever ‘dopt!
“This went on for about two years. By that time, Albert had become a part of the Chitwoods’ hearts. They couldn’t fight it. He really had adopted them.
Then came the happy day that the Home management was able to build the superintendent and his wife a nice home adjoining the campus. Albert was desolate because they couldn’t allow him to move into the new house with them. “What will the kids think?” he asked the Chitwoods. “I’ve told them I’ve ‘dopted you. They’ll think it’s not so!” His mouth quivered, and his big eyes pleaded, but the Chitwoods stood firm.
And then one day Albert was seriously injured when he feel out of an apple tree. He was put in an ambulance and rushed to the big city hospital. Mrs. Chitwood didn’t question the rightness of what she did this time. She rode in the ambulance with Albert. She held his small, trusting hand in hers before he was operated on, and she sat at his bedside every day while he recuperated.
These were days when love really healed. Albert would take her hand and put it over his eyes, then let it slip down so his lips could kiss it. His tender looks bathed her in the pure love that only a child has for its mother, and she stopped resisting.
“He’s my little boy, God-sent,” she told her husband, tears in her eyes. “I’m going to take him home where he belongs. “Albert never lived in the dormitory again. He had his own room in the house of his adopted mother and Dad Chitwood. He was their own son, given all the love and advantages real parents give their children. He grew into young manhood, making them proud that he wanted to call them Mother and Dad. He had a keen mind, a well-developed personality, and an eagerness for life.
At the outbreak of World War II he enlisted as a tail gunner. That was the last time Albert ever was in the Tipton Home–that is, until the day they brought his flag-draped casket home. For Albert, bright-eyed Albert, had love the Tipton Home. He had loved his adopted parents, but he loved his country more–enough to die for it!
Author: Vera Holding