I google map my way to the daycare she’s been living in for the past month, and the women, the ones who’ve been taking care of her, are very sweet. The daycare is clean and friendly and the children are sitting at a table playing with freshly made play doh and it is nice, as far as daycares go. But still, you know, a daycare.
They tell me what they know about her. She’s potty trained, day and night, she’s language-delayed, she’s been on these meds for this problem. She’s so sweet, really, adds the tiny, bird-like worker with the hard-to-understand-accent, just as we are leaving.
My son grabs the small grocery bag half full of clothes they hand us, and she takes my hand like she’s been taking strangers’ hands her whole life, and we leave.
It’s late and we’re all tired and we still have a two-hour drive ahead of us, but the social worker hands me a clothing requisition and it’s obvious she needs some things, so we stop. I peek into her bag, and it’s a jumble this and that. A few summer tees and some shorts and a bunch of boy clothes that are way too big for her. No jammies at all, and one black sock.
It’s as quick a stop as I can manage at that store that has everything and I block out of my mind the questions of where those four-dollar shirts were made and by whom. I do the best I can to eyeball her size and I mentally add the purchases as I fill the cart, and she oohs and aahs over the Minnie Mouse skirt and the Strawberry Shortcake pj’s, and we choose colourful panties and those get squeals of delight, too.
I see them there, hanging on a hook beside the pretty panties. Packages of plain black socks all practical and economical but her eyes wander down the rack to the rainbow striped ones, and she looks at me and I grab two packages. Of course we can get twelve pair of rainbow socks.
I try to find runners but it’s a weird end-of-season time to shop and there is nothing in her size. The sparkly Dora shoes catch her eye and we try them on and I say, sure, and we head to the customer service desk, and the first thing the woman behind the counter says, after I hand her the clothing req and I start piling our purchases on the counter, is, shoes aren’t clothes.
She’s holding the pretty shoes and I must have looked confused because that’s how I look when it’s late and I’m tired and someone tries to tell me that shoes aren’t clothes. So she repeats herself, and I shake my head and smile and say, that’s okay, I’ll buy them separately.
I’ve said no to this little one many times since she took my hand a week ago. I’ve said no to cake for breakfast and I’ve said no to chocolate bars spied from the grocery store checkout line and I’ve said no to the bedtime tantrums, and I’ve found her more practical long-sleeved sweaters and hoodies and rubber boots to wear.
But a little girl who starts out with one black sock should have a pair of pretty shoes, I think.