My Perspective: If Hallowed Halls Could Speak
Ghost Written: Hannah Rials
It’s a beautiful day, not a cloud in the sky. The wind is whistling in the branches of my trees, and the sun is shining down on my blooming flowers. There’s a child walking up my stone path, looking up at me with big, wet eyes. A woman stands behind her, a hand on her shoulder, and urges her up to my front door. I feel her tremors through the boards in my floor. They resonate in the walls.
Raeann rushes to meet them, her warm, smiling face serving as a moment of reprieve to the child’s terror. But then she remembers that she’s here, with me. I must seem like a scary place. But Raeann is calming, reassuring. She leads our visitor into my playroom, filled with woodland critters. The girl’s eyes are wide as she chews her lip, staring around at the toys. When she chooses to sit at the desk, I wait to see which color crayon she’ll pick. They always go for their favorite color first, and I always remember.
The girl doesn’t notice the Child Protective Service worker and the detective that slip into the closet-like room, preparing to observe her interview. Ms. Tina comes down the stairs, and the loud groans of the wood signal the girl that someone’s coming. She’s in good hands; she just doesn’t realize it yet. I expect this next part—she doesn’t want to leave. She’s not done drawing her sunflower…she has to finish drawing her sunflower. That’s the thing with the playroom—it’s just a way station, and the kids don’t realize that they’ll have to leave it sooner rather than later. I want to tell her that everything’s going to be alright. Maybe she’ll believe me. Eventually, she sets her purple crayon on the desk and follows Ms. Tina into the interview room. This is the hardest part; if she can just make it through this, her journey of healing can begin. Over the past thirteen years, I’ve heard thousands of children’s stories. Just this year, I have heard 298 stories. The calendar on my wall tells me that we’re barely over halfway through the year, and that just makes me sad.
The interview is hard; this girl’s been through a lot, but unfortunately, it’s nothing I haven’t heard before. She doesn’t trust Ms. Tina easily, but when she does, the truth comes out. And as she speaks, my floor, my walls, my ceiling, we absorb the pain. You all might wonder why I’ve started to look so old. Well, after thirteen years of absorbing thousands of stories filled with pain…that starts to take its toll.
Her tears stain the pillows on my couch, her words seeping into my memory. But I feel the weight that releases from her chest. It floats through my walls and disappears into the air. It’s just a small piece of that pain. It’ll take awhile for the pain to go away, and she might always have phantom pain. But for now, in this moment, that first little piece of fear has been taken away. Thank you, Tina.
On her way out, Raeann helps her choose a stuffed animal. Her eyes, puffy and red, focus on the shelves filled with a variety of animals until she stops. A small hand reaches out for a kangaroo and pulls it to her chest in a rush. No one sees my smile at her choice.
Her time with us is not over. She’ll become familiar with Raeann’s smile, and soon, she’ll meet one of our therapists, and together, they will work through all of the trauma, the pain, the tears, and the nightmares. They will rid her mind of dark thoughts, of demeaning words, of the phantom pain. In my walls, she will find safety, healing, courage, love, friendship, and most importantly hope. She has hope for a bright future. It is her choice, and we will do whatever we can to help her.
As she walks out my front door, gripping the kangaroo as if her life depends on it, she turns around, looking back into my halls. I feel her trust, and I want to tell her that I heard her. Her story matters. I’ll always remember her. And now, with that kangaroo in hand, she’s taking her first steps forward into her new life, filled with hope.
I am New Hope. I’m the house on the corner. I’m the one place where thousands of one stories are told one time. I am safety, healing, courage, memory, openness, humility, faith. I am history, and I will forever hold the stories of the abused children in my hallowed halls.