12-01-2012, 03:49 PM
They stared at the strange lady before them, these pitiful waifs in Mr. Webber's care. As soon as their guardian left the room, they broke ranks and huddled back together as before, muttering among themselves.
"She looks nice."
"I hope she doesn't beat us like the last one."
"She talks funny. Where she from?"
"She's kinda old. Think she'll have a heart attack and die?"
"Well, I'm just asking!"
"I hope she cooks better than the last one. I'm hungry!"
Dimitra, for her part, sized up her new charges, realizing she had her work cut out for her. For one thing, they all needed baths, clean clothes, and fresh bedding. There was plenty of space in this house; why did Mr. Webber not separate the boys from the girls in regards to sleeping arrangments? Fourteen children crammed together in one room? It was unhealthy, not to mention improper, especially with the older children. The eldest girl, Heather, was beginning to blossom into womanhood. Roland, the oldest boy, would soon become a man in time. Sharing the same room together at such a sensitve time in their lives was not wise, to say the least. And the younger children were exposed to all kinds of germs in such crowded conditions. There had to be some changes made for their sake, and the first was cleanliness.
"All right, darlings," Dimitra announced. "First, you are all going to take a bath. Then, we'll find some clean clothes for you. Now, where is the bathroom?"
Heather pointed out the doors. "Down the hall to your left," she explained simply.
"Thank you, dear." Dimitra said, and headed for the bathroom where Heather directed. When she got there, she almost fainted from shock. The bathroom was the most squalid mess she ever had the misfortune to see. Walls were grimy and scaly, rust streaked the porcelain, the toilet leaked, and the bathtub beggared description. It should have been condemmed by the Board of Health, she thought. The children would come out of there even dirtier than they went in!
She searched the tiny cabinet for any cleaning materials, and found none. She sighed. Cleanliness was next to Godliness, she had been told, but in this house, cleanliness was next to impossible.
Costa rang up Criss that evening, mid afternoon Las Vegas time. Criss answered after the fourth or fifth ring.
"Hey, Costa, whassup?"
"Just wanted to let you know that Mom's found a volunteer job taking care of foster kids." Costa informed him. "Fourteen of them."
"Hey! That's great!" Criss cheered. "So, what's she doing?"
"Everything," Costa replied. "She says that place is a dump, and those kids are really in bad shape."
"Gee, that's too bad. But I know Mom will set things right. You'll see."
"God, I hope so. Well, I gotta go. Later."
"Yeah, later." Criss flipped his phone off. So his mother was taking care of foster kids, he mused. What a wonderful woman she was! Forty-plus years of raising kids, and she still had room enough in her heart of hearts to reach out to children who needed love and nurturing. He knew they would benefit greatly from her tender loving care. She would be the best thing to come into their little lives. And they would be the best thing for her as well. By caring for them, they in turn would heal her of the trauma she had suffered at the hands of the Vegas Bomber, may he rot in Hell, and give her a new lease on life. It was win-win all around.
Sixteen hundred dollars. That was her entire budget. Sixteen hundred dollars to clothe, feed and care for fourteen children for and entire month. Not to mention maintain the house, pay the utilities and other necessities too numerous to mention. No wonder Mr. Webber said "no extravangances." What extravagances was he talking about? Was food an extravagance? Decent clothes, were they an extravagance? But, Mr. Webber insisted that was all he got for them. There had been budget cuts in the social services division, and sixteen hundred was the best he could do, no matter how he tried to negotiate.
Dimitra sighed. She was going to need help here. The house was a filthy mess, as were the children themselves, and there was hardly any fresh food for them. It was time to call in reinforcements.
She could call Stella, Popi, Costa, the church--anyone who was available to lend a hand. She could get clothes at the Salvation Army, GoodWill, and St. Vincent de Paul's. She could go to Costco for bulk food and cleaning supplies. She could scour flea markets and yard sales for bedding and other supplies. She could even appeal to Christopher for money, if she had to. She knew he would be glad to help. He had donated time and money for disadvantaged children before; she was sure he would come up with something to help these poor little ones. One way or another, she was going to rescue these poor children from the squalor in their lives.
First thing she did when she returned home that day, she made a few phone calls. Stella and Popi agreed to come over and clean the house. Costa would move some furniture into another room to create separate quarters for the girls and a nursery for the two youngest. Then she called Christopher, explaining the situation and asking for any type of financial assistance. Of course, he came through, wiring four thousand dollars to her, "for starters", he told her.
The next day, Dimitra organized the older children into cleaning crews to help. She did the laundry at a local laundromat (the washer and dryer at the house were inoperable) and make sure the children had decent clothes and clean bedding. Those tissue-thin blankets were out--GoodWill provided better ones. It was be a lot of work, but in the end, it was worth it.
Next, she had some serious shopping to do. Cleaning supplies, food, and other necessities were on her list, and there was no time to waste. She'd get that house in order and those kids in shape if she had to pay for everything out of her own pocket!
As it turned out, that's exactly what she had to do. In fact, despite her careful bargain hunting, thrift store purchases, and dollar stretching at the supermarket, she spent a near fortune of her own money for everything she needed to help the children. Clothing, except for what was donated, came to about two or three hundred dollars. Underwear had to be purchased new, for health laws prohibited the sale of secondhand underclothing, from Kira's training pants to Heather's first bra. Shoes took out the biggest chunk of the clothing budget, even if they were purchased at the Salvation Army store. Dimitra pulled out her sewing basket and made any necessary alterations herself; she spent long hours lowering hems, stiching up rips, attaching buttons and fixing zippers.
Food was the next item. Years of working in the restaraunt business with her husband gave her an eye for quality food at a good price, but food prices had shot up since then, and a week's groceries which had cost thirty dollars in the past now cost almost a hundred. Milk alone was three dollars a gallon. Fourteen growing children with healthy appetites would go through a lot of food in just one day. The monthly stipend barely covered two weeks' worth. Again, she made up for it out of her own pocket, even raiding her own kitchen for foodstuffs. Maybe she could start a vegetable garden in the back yard. The children would enjoy it, and they would have fresh vegetables to eat. It was an idea worth talking to Mr. Webber about.
Then there were the other expenses: Cleaning supplies, diapers for Mia, medical and first aid supplies, things for school. How could sixteen hundred cover all that? She couldn't keep spending all her own money forever. She'd go broke. Even with Christopher's help, she'd still wouldn't have enough to keep up with the demands of raising these kids. There had to be a better way.
She heard her mother's voice echoing from beyond the grave. No matter how bleak things are right now, the Lord will provide. You must have faith, Didi. The Lord will provide for our needs. Those same words got her family through the Depression, the Nazi Occupation of Greece, their migration to America, and the first few years in their adopted country. They got her through the first years of her marriage to John Sarantakos, when they were a struggling young couple trying to make it in the restauarant business, then when they became parents for the first time, then a second time, and finally a third. They sustained her through every conceivable hardship, from near bankruptcy to medical emergencies to John's death from cancer. And even through the inconceivable, like Christopher's so-called "demonstrations' and the Vegas Bomber attacks. You must have faith. The Lord will provide.
Last edited by Veritas; 12-01-2012 at 03:54 PM.