THE SUITCASES by Anne Hall Whitt


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Plain as pigtails and inescapably moving is this account of the piteous childhood of the author and her two sisters--whose anxious route through orphanages and foster homes did, at last, have a happy conclusion. Mother had died in 1936 when Betty was almost eight, Anne six, and Carolyn four. Anne remembers Father before Mother's death, reciting Scottish poetry and singing ""Annie Laurie."" Then Father, ""now in his own world,"" kept them in the house--where the ""woman in the black suit"" knocked on the door: she would arrange for them to be ""wards of the state"" (and ""we would never see our home again""). The bewildered children stayed two months at a Catholic home where the dour routine and discipline gave them some sense of security. But day after day, while Betty was at school, Anne and Carolyn sat on top of the playground slide and ""watched for our father."" Surely he would come. The next place they tugged their state-issued suitcases to was the Thompson Orphanage, which had toys, outdoor games, even friends. But friends disappeared mysteriously into adoption, so Anne checked suitcases under the beds to make sure a sister hadn't been taken away. Once, in the hospital recovering from an appendectomy, she did see her father--he gave her a red balloon, which she put in her suitcase with the two walnuts and a picture of a Sonja Henie doll. There were other moves, other short stays--including six months of horror, Dickens-style--before the girls found a real home with the kindly Nyes, who became forever ""Mother"" and ""Father."" With a foreword by Charles Kuralt: a touching reminder of the injustices to which orphans were (and still are) subject.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1983
Publisher: Acropolis