“One morning, the sky was so blue I could see white clouds and airplanes, which we never saw here in my town, so it started the day off with an odd but somewhat happy start. The happy part ended when mom came and told me that even though it was the middle of the summer, June 8th, 1941, I had to work. When I say work, I don’t mean writing. I mean babysitting the triplets.”
One morning, the sky was so blue I could see white clouds and airplanes, which we never saw here in my town, so it started the day off with an odd but somewhat happy start. The happy part ended when mom came and told me that even though it was the middle of the summer, June 8th, 1941, I had to work. When I say work, I don’t mean writing. I mean babysitting the triplets.
“Noooooooooooooooooooo!” I said.
Meanwhile, my older brother Michael got to go out with his friends, and my twin sister, Madeline, got to lie on the other side of the room!!! Sorry for the delay. I am Adaline, and this is how the worst day of my life started.
My mom made me eat breakfast quickly. It was oatmeal, my least favorite. I had to get dressed in uncomfortable clothes for the middle of the summer. Agh, long sleeves, long jeans, itchy headband, long socks up to the knee, and boots. Then, my mom got ready in nice summer clothes. It took her twenty minutes. She did her hair and makeup, and she put on her nice sandals and dress.
“The triplets, Ava, Emma, and Samuel, are in their room in the cribs. Please get them dressed and change their diapers,” my mom said. Then, she added, “Remember, they need exercise. Take them to the park. Remember to take a diaper bag, a first aid kit, two pairs of shoes, sunscreen, and water. Don’t forget snacks! Bye!” Then, she left. I wanted to be like my siblings. They got to go and have fun while I was stuck babysitting.
I went to the room and changed the kids quickly (their diapers and their clothes). The triplets were one and a half years old. One of them was in the carrier on my back. The others were in a double stroller.
The one on my back started screaming. The screaming was so high-pitched! It sounded like me. I was so annoyed. I had three babies, one screaming and two in the stroller asleep, while they should have been eating. The screaming one was throwing her food all over me! I was only eleven years old. I shouldn’t have been the one taking care of these kids! Michael was fifteen, but mom said he couldn’t be helping out. Then, the two in the stroller woke up, wanting food. When I gave it to them, they started spilling it and throwing it everywhere! On our way to the park, they saw one of their friends who was going in the opposite direction.
No, I thought. Please help me.
The triplets screamed happily when they were next to their friend. I talked to the other baby’s mother for a while, and then she said something.
“Hey, if anything happens to me, can you please adopt my child?”
“Okay,” I said. “I’ll have to talk to my mom.”
I was not surprised, but I was very worried. I couldn’t have another sibling. Oh no, I thought. I was part of six kids already. The triplets, my twin sister, and my brother. I couldn’t take care of quadruplets! Wait! That meant my older brother and twin sister would have to help!
“And, if anything happens to me,” the mother continued, “can you pick my other daughter up from 104th street and West End? That’s where the bus stop is. Pick her up at 2:30, please. She doesn’t need to go to school tomorrow if anything happens. “I’ll be right back,” the mother said. “Wait here. If I don’t come back in five minutes, then just take the baby to the playground. If I don’t show up at two, please pick up my daughter. Her name is Alexei. Don’t look for me. It’s not safe in the building.”
“Okay,” I said, “Bye!” I took the baby, leaving the mother with the stroller, and put the baby in the front of the baby carrier. The mother started walking away with the empty stroller. She went into her building. I waited five minutes.
She didn’t come out. I waited a little longer, then we went to the park. I had kids. I couldn’t leave them. I’d get in big trouble!
At 2:00, I went to pick up the little girl, but the mom never told me what she looked like!
“Alexei,” I called to the bus. She came off and looked for her mom. She was scared. But then I called, “Come here, Alexi. I’m your mom’s daughter’s friend. Your little sister is friends with my little siblings.”
Alexei came and said, “Oh! Are you Adeline?”
“Yep,” I answered.
She asked, “Where’s my mom? Are you babysitting me?”
I answered, “It’s a long story. You’ll be staying with us for a while.”
“I WANT MY MOMMY!” she wailed.
“I’ll tell you when we get home,” I soothed. “Why don’t you get onto the board on the stroller? You can ride.”
“Okay… ” she said quietly.
I gave her a ride home.
When we got home, I introduced her to everybody. Everybody met for the first time except for the triplets. My mom still hadn’t come home, but she said she would be back by 2:30. Oh, and I forgot, she was visiting her friend… whose daughter I just picked up! My heart was beating so fast. My hands were shaking. I was panting, I was running out of breath, and I had no words. What would I do?!
I ran over to the TV room and turned it on, and I jumped onto the couch with the kids and the remote.
“HURRY UP,” I yelled for my brother. “We need to watch something! I think Mom’s in danger!” I heard my brother running.
“By the way,” I added, “we adopted two kids.”
“What on earth?! You adopted two kids without Mom’s permission?” my brother asked. Then, he hesitated.
“Where’s Mom? She should be home by now.” His voice was questioning and worried.
The TV was on, and we saw the news. There was a huge fire from 92th to 134th street! It was 42 blocks!
“EVERYBODY, GRAB A CHILD OR TWO,” I yelled. “WE NEED TO GET OUT OF THE BUILDING.” I turned to my brother. “You can drive, right?” I asked. “If you don’t, you’re in big trouble, mister.”
“Sort of? I can sort of drive,” he said. “I can knock down a few trees and buildings, but I can still drive.”
“Good enough. INTO THE CAR!” I yelled.
“Get into the driver’s seat,” I told my brother, “Everyone else, sit down, and I’ll buckle you in.” I began to buckle in one, two, three, four, five, six… we need more car seats. I unbuckled two seats and squeezed two into a car seat. I sat down and buckled up, and we were off, but we forgot the baby’s blankets in the fire.
Then, we drove off, and we saw the fire truck up ahead, and then the fire truck hit our car and turned it over. I yelled, “Again! Everybody, take a child, unbuckle them, and run. We will need to get as far away from here as we can. Follow Michael, then run to Grammy and Poppy’s house in Brooklyn!” On our way there, people in a minivan stopped us and asked us to get in.
Michael said, “It’s the only thing we can do.”
We hopped in the car, and the parents had two children in the car named Avery and Sophie. When we got in the car, everybody held three children, and we drove back to their house. At first, we were nervous, but as we got used to it, we felt more at home. They adopted all of us.
We lived happily ever after… for a few minutes.
One Sunday, everybody left for a trip to Australia. Everybody went except for me, my sister’s friend, and my sister, Alexei. My sister’s friend name was Amanda. Amanda couldn’t eat a lot of things. She was allergic to pretty much everything that everybody else in the house liked, and Alexei liked everything that Amanda didn’t like, and Amanda liked what Alexei didn’t like. They didn’t like any of the same things.
I was not very picky. So it made it hard for the seven months they were in Australia. Every night, we would put the blackouts up and went into the subway. I would put the kids to bed. The first Monday, things went a little differently. Usually, every day we would get a letter in a very bright color from our family letting us know that everything was fine and good, but today we got a black letter that didn’t seem very happy. It said:
Family of Samuel, Avery, Sophie, Emma, Ava, Michael, Madeline, Elizabeth, and Benjamin Smith,
Please come to Australia to attend the funeral of Benjamin Smith. It will be at the Waverly Cemetery in Sydney, at 10:00 p.m. on Sunday July 16, 1941. We will explain how they died when you arrive.
The babies are okay, but are sick because of the bomb, and aren’t doing very well.
My shoulders drooped, and I began to cry. I was so upset. We rushed over to the docks, caught the first boat to Australia, and we were off. It would take one whole week to get there from London, and with all the bombing, I wasn’t sure if I should have taken all the little ones with me. But who would take care of them if I didn’t bring them along? So on our way to Australia, the boat stopped at Brooklyn so that people could get on to go to Australia, and I dropped off the little ones with our grandparents. Alexei stayed with me as we got on the boat and sailed away. The boat was rough, very crowded, and the food wasn’t very good. Both of us felt sick.
It was really hard to be on the ship alone with a five-year-old as an eleven-year-old. I had to take care of her, and I had to take care of myself, but as we got on the ship and started sailing away, I felt badly that I left the little ones with our grandparents. Our grandparents weren’t the nicest people. They found the worst in every situation, and I didn’t want the little ones to think I abandoned them. Also, I felt like our grandparents would teach the little ones to not like a bunch of things and be mean. They wouldn’t teach them manners, and I’d come back to rude little sisters. So after we went to the funeral, I would take back every child and go back to Brooklyn to pick up the little ones with all the other kids and Elizabeth.
I got really nervous that the kids in Australia got really hurt because the letter said they were not doing so well. I hoped Michael, Madeline, and Elizabeth were okay, because if they weren’t, who would take care of the little ones? I couldn’t take care of everybody by myself, especially while taking care of bandaged adults and all of the people who normally help me with the seven children.
There was a little boy on the boat with me whose mom was on the last ship, which sunk. His dad was in the war and died. So I thought, Maybe I could convince Elizabeth to adopt him!
“Hi, I’m Adeline. I heard about your parents. Do you want to come with me? I’m only 11, but you can trust me. I have triplet little siblings, an older brother, and a twin sister. We were adopted by another family, and then there are two siblings in their family, and then there was another family that got adopted by us, who were another family of two children, and now we can adopt you. If that’s okay with you. There’s a five-year-old girl over there whose name is Alexei, who is one of the kids that we adopted… And what’s your name?” I said.
The little boy answered, “I am Charlie. You heard what happened to my family, right? I have a newborn sister and an older sister who are over there taking care of each other. My older sister is seven, and I am four.”
I introduced Alexei to Charlie, and they started playing. I then went around the boat, asking if any of the other children needed a new home or didn’t have parents. In all, there were ten children who needed a new home, not including Charlie and his siblings. So, we adopted all ten children into our family, and I got all of their parents out of a few rooms on the boat and had all the children sit in a circle and introduce themselves. There were six girls and four boys. The girls were Amelia who was six, Olivia who was three, Emily who was nine, Jessica who was eight, Isabella who was four, and Isla who was seven. The boys were Oliver who was six, Jacob who was two, Harry who was nine, and Jack who was seven. There were two sibling pairs and three only children.
When we got off the boat, I had everybody get in a line. First was Harry, then Emily, Jessica, Isla, Jack, Amelia, Oliver, Amelia (Charlie’s sister), Alexei, Isabella, Charlie, Olivia, Jacob, and the newborn, Ava. Amelia had to switch over to hold Ava, but other than that, this was the line. As we were getting off the boat, I had the older kids pair up with a younger kid. We got onto a trolly and were off to go to the funeral. First, we went to our house in Australia to pick up everybody else, then we got our clothes on. I was terrified but happy to have all of these new siblings. I knew how it felt to be separated from your parents, and I knew how important family was in times like this. We were young, with any boy over the age of 16 being sent off to war. Us younger ones had to stick together. I reminded myself this as I got myself ready and helped all the new siblings get ready for the funeral.
All the girls would have a dress that was black or blue and a bow to put in their hair. All the boys would have a suit and a tie. Everybody got changed, and I put everybody that was younger than five in a stroller, that the kids that were older than five helped push. We got on a trolly and went to Sydney for the funeral. We met Elizabeth, Michael, and all the other kids that didn’t come with me. Elizabeth was very droopy and blue. Her eyes looked black, and I could tell she was really sad. Michael had just gotten a black eye while running with Samuel, so he wasn’t looking his best either. In spite of all of this, I was really happy to see them. They were my family. Even with Benjamin gone, it made me so happy to know that the rest were safe. Who knew how Benjamin was killed? I wondered. I decided not to ask Elizabeth, because I knew that it would make her upset.
Before I got to ask anybody, Sammy came up to me and said, “Ben got killed in a bomb while fighting. Elizabeth was on her way to save him, but she fell and got knocked over, and her eye isn’t actually a black eye… It’s an eye patch because she lost her eyeball while running. We had to run to the hospital, and it was a disaster. Michael had to carry three of us, and Elizabeth held her eye, and Madeline carried me. When we went to the hospital to try and find something for Elizabeth’s eye and Benjamin, Benjamin wasn’t there. They had taken him to a grave site, and laid his body over the dirt. They said that we would have a funeral for him soon, but it has been a week since it happened. It happened the first day we were here in Australia.”
I said, “Wow. You haven’t learned to talk any less! Has Emma learned to talk yet?”
“No! Not at all!” Sammy said. “She still makes baby noises even though she is almost two!”
“When you’re five,” I said, “you’re gonna be saying words from the dictionary! Your vocabulary will be far more advanced than mine!”
Sammy walked away, and Elizabeth came over to me and asked, “Why are these other 13 children here?”
I said, “I know how it feels to have no parents for a while, so I decided we could adopt them! But if you don’t want too… I will.” There was silence. “Will you adopt them? Pleeeeeeease?” I begged.
Then, Amelia and Ava came up to Elizabeth and said, “Hi, are you Elizabeth? I’m Amelia! And this is Ava, my newborn sister. She will be two months old tomorrow! What happened to… Bean? Ben? Benjamin?”
“Benjamin,” Elizabeth corrected, “and he was fighting in the war when a bomb hit him and he died, and we are at his funeral today if you know what that is.”
“We know what that is,” Amelia continued. “We were going to have a funeral for both of my parents, but then we had to go to Australia to see our grandparents, who suddenly died from a bomb… Who knows how? So Adeline picked me up, my little sister, and my little brother. We helped collect ten other children who all really want new homes, even if it’s here. Pleeeeeeeeeeease?”
After a few minutes of silence, Elizabeth finally said, “Okay. After the funeral, we’ll go to court and get the adoption papers for everybody here, other than Sophie and Avery.”
“Every week day, I’ll have to send all of you adopting children, and they don’t like it. So everybody is planning against you and the day so that I can do some work around the house, and it’s just too much for me. The kids that are eight and older will have to take care of the younger ones. I’ll send you all to your grandparents, also known as my parents, not yours. Michael, Adeline, Madeline, and Peter will be in charge. Peter is my nephew. He is 11,” Elizabeth said. “His parents, my brother, was in the war and died. His mother was very ill from the bombs, and she too passed. So he and his five siblings will be joining you and living with us. That makes 30 children. People know that you are other children. I want all of you to get together and get in a car. Michael can drive now. He runs into a few trees and buildings, but other than that, he can still drive. He will be driving, and you will be off. I want all of you on a boat by midnight every Sunday night. You will all be on a boat that fits 30 people over the age of one, including the captain. That will make there be able to be one captain and the 30 of you children. There are 29 children above the age of one, so it’s a really good fit, and you guys will have the whole boat to yourselves. Try not to spill anything on the bus driver or anybody else. I will see you every weekend, but let’s get to the funeral.”
Everybody stood in a line, and we would get to the ceremony. The kids under the age of five could leave unless they need to be supervised, then they were allowed to stay. There were special circumstances. Everybody would need to eat lunch while they were there, so this meant Amanda would stay with me, Ava would stay with me, and Charlie would stay with me.
“FROWN FOR THE CAMERA!”
After our photo, we walked over to the funeral. Elizabeth dropped off all of the kids at the restaurant so that they could eat and play for a bit during the service. Us older kids were at the funeral, and some stayed back to watch the little kids. I stayed to watch the little kids with Madeline, and then I got everybody the meal that they wanted and a teeny weeny piece of cookie, since sugar was scarce due to the war. We played with the little kids for a bit longer, until the funeral was over. Once it was over, we met up with Elizabeth, and she told us at 11:30 to go back to the trolley and meet her in order to get to the boat and load our things onto it.
“You are going to New Zealand to hide,” said Elizabeth, “and you will be taking the boat that Benjamin built. As I told you before, it will fit 29 people over the age of one, in addition to all of your stuff. The captain is one of my really good friends who will be driving the boat there and back every Friday and Sunday.”
We got ready to leave the next day. We spent the rest of the evening putting our stuff on the boat. We needed to load all of the babies’ blankets and pacifiers, and all of the older kids’ books and learning tools. We also packed five cartons of milk for each of the older kids to give to the babies and sleeping bags to sleep inside of. Food and water went under the hatch of the small boat, along with clothing for all of us. After we loaded all of this onto the boat, we were feeling very tired. We slept in the cabin under the deck of the small ship. Ten people would sleep in a room, two babies would share each crib, and two kids over the age of five would share a bed. It was very crowded. I felt stuck inside but safe. There were so many people around to keep us safe, and we all knew how to swim, luckily.
That morning, the boat took off for New Zealand. I was feeling very happy to be going to New Zealand, but then I remembered I had to pick up the one triplet from my mean grandparents house. I had almost forgotten about them with all of the new adoptions, but I could not leave them behind! I ran and told the driver to go to Brooklyn, and he told me it would be a week’s long journey. We had to do it.
“Let’s go!” he said. “But I bet Elizabeth will be wanting you back by the time you get there.”
“I will send her a letter,” I said. “That way, she will know where we are.” I found a feather and ink, took a piece of paper, and began to write…
I forgot all about the kids back in Brooklyn! We need to go back and get them, because they are with my grandparents who are not very nice, and I don’t want the kids there to be raised in a home that is not very nice. Hope you understand.
I handed the letter to the driver and asked him for an envelope. Once the letter was sent out to Elizabeth, we began our voyage to Brooklyn. The time went by quickly, but not easily. It was a rainy and stormy voyage. None of us had been on such a long journey. Eighty percent of us were throwing up, the other 20% suffered from fainting. The babies were screaming like they had never screamed like before. Their screams sounded like people were dying and like seals were slurping water.
Once we reached Brooklyn, all of the children ran off the ship and tied it to the dock. The driver came out with them, and then we all ran to our grandparents’ house. We fixed our dresses and suits so that they looked presentable and rang the doorbell. Two kids came out, and they looked older than I remembered. They were wearing the most fancy clothes I had ever seen, and they both had really pretty purses covered in gems. The little girls, one years old, looked like they are five and rich, even though they weren’t rich. Though, they were half rich.
We had to walk into the house to pick up the little ones. I felt jealous and dirty in my sloppy clothes as I walked into the beautiful mansion. There were beautiful flowers outside, swings covered in pink and blue gems, and the yellow house that they lived in was beautiful compared to the house that we live in. Our grandparents said that Elizabeth told them to take us instead of going to New Zealand every week. We walked in, and our grandparents gasped at the sight of us in our dirty clothes.
They said, “Oh! We have some much nicer clothes for you on the bed. But you mustn’t walk in like that! You need to take a shower beforehand! I will give you towels to walk on… so that you don’t get the floor all sloppy.”
I stepped out, and my grandmother said, “Adeline! It is so nice to see you again! I haven’t seen you since you were a baby! Get changed, and we will have a bit of breakfast! And you are not allowed to step a foot into that little boat again! I will have the driver bring your stuff into the house from the boat!”
After he did this, the driver took off, and we were on our own with our grandparents. We cleaned ourselves and got changed. I began to brush my hair, which I hadn’t done in so long, and it felt really nice to be neat again. After my parents died, I’d been dressed in all of these rusty clothes which my parents would never have put me in.
The boys went fishing, and the girls cooked and took care of all of the little girls. I helped Grandma clean the house, set the table, make French toast, pancakes, fruit bowls, salad, eggs, fresh squeezed orange juice, and lattes.
Then, our aunt took us from our grandparents. Our aunt lived in pretty much the same house as our grandparents, except it was in Alabama. There was a mansion that was painted a soft baby blue with guards covering the whole first floor of the house, which was pretty much what my house used to look like. It had flowers and vines covering some of the mansion, and it was ten stories high. Well, my house wasn’t ten stories high, it was 15… but this would do. We walked in wearing high heels and our blue poofy dresses and suits. Our aunt greeted us in a long, straight dress, and said she didn’t like the poofy dresses. She put us all into pink dresses with silver gems. Well, mine was covered in silver gems, and she did my hair.
She dyed my hair red, and I liked it. She had everybody else stay in their clothes, except for the triplets. She had the other 26 children go back to our grandparents’ house and kept the four of us.
She had two children of her own who looked just like me, and she told me that my parents had dyed my hair blonde when I was a baby…. Well, my fake parents… the people I thought were my parents. She told me that the four of us were actually her children! And that my parents took me from her. She introduced me to my actual brother and sister. One of them was 15 and named James, and my twin sister was Adeline. She told me my name was actually Charlotte! She said that the triplets were taken from her by her mother as she was giving birth to them. The other kids in my family were actually my parents’ kids, but who I thought was my aunt was actually my mom, and I got a little mad at my mom that wasn’t really my mom… She was my aunt, but she was dead. So she said that she would go to Elizabeth, and that the eight of us would go to the half adoption/half not adoption ceremony. My parents, my siblings, and I would go. Everybody else would live with my grandparents, who we would get to see every Christmas.
At the adoption ceremony, my siblings ended up deciding not to live with my grandparents. They lived with a new family that now had 23 more kids! Charlie, Amelia, and Ava stayed with my family that became a family of nine children.