Little did she know that her persistence on this day would be the most significant, life-saving thing she would ever do.
‘Mum, you’ve got to see this.’
‘Mum, you’re not listening.’
‘You’ve got to see this.’
Carolyn cried out again after Mum, who was preoccupied with the dinner. But, this time, she was determined to get Mum’s attention. She’d seen an advertisement in the newspaper she had picked up from the local newsstands for Dad early that morning, before heading off to school.
My foster dad, I was told, couldn’t do without the morning newspapers on the breakfast table. He would intermittently sip his hot tea while he read them.
An advert posted in the papers for the foster care of a little black girl had caught Carolyn’s attention that morning. She’d flipped through the pages to see if there was anything of interest to her. The advertisement read:
I would like a loving family to foster my black baby. If you are the perfect family, please write your number and your address on the brown envelope enclosed, and post it to the address below.
When Carolyn got back from school, she was so excited to see the morning paper still lying on the small side table. It sat neatly on its own, on the shiny, well-polished table that Mum so often cleaned with such pride.
‘Carolyn, dear, what is so important that can’t wait?’ Mum said, while still trying to set some dishes on the table. ‘There’s so much to do, and your dad will soon be home for dinner.’
‘I know, Mum, but you’ve got to see this.’
Carolyn flicked through the pages to get to the advertisement seeking the foster care of a black baby girl. She set it on the dining table for Mum to read. That little girl was me. It was October 1972, and I was just two months old.
Mum – my white foster mum – would always recall how Carolyn was like a ‘dog with a bone’; she just wouldn’t let it go when it came to this advertisement.
She said, ‘Carolyn went on and on about this baby girl, and she wouldn’t stop until we responded to the advert asking us to send our phone number to an address by post if we were interested in fostering their baby. Ooh, Bas, you were her favourite, and she was fond of you, you know? God bless her sweet soul now.’
Mum Kind exhaled a silent breath, as she held my hands firmly. She reflected on how, if it were not for Carolyn, I would not have come into her life.
Carolyn’s persistence for Mum to respond to the advert resulted in the most significant moment of my life.
‘Mum, let’s give it a go.’
Mum was not sure what it would be like to raise a black child in a completely white village. ‘Carolyn, dear, I’m not so sure. I’ve never seen a coloured baby in Ratby before.’
‘I know, Mum. Let’s reply to the post; nothing will probably come of it. Let’s do it for fun.’
‘All right, Carolyn, let’s do it. But Dad doesn’t have to know since nothing will come of it, right?’
‘OK, Mum,’ Carolyn said. ‘Let’s do it.’
It was around 6 pm and just over a week since Mum and Carolyn had replied to the advert.
‘Get the phone, please, darling,’ Dad called out to Mum when the phone rang.
‘Hello, you said you want to foster my baby?’
Mum cringed a bit in surprise, almost not sure of what to say.
‘Ehhhm, hold on a minute, please...’ Placing her hand on the mouthpiece, she leaned over to Dad. ‘Ern [short for my foster dad’s name – Ernest] I’ve got this lady on the phone asking if we’ll foster her baby. What should I tell her?’
‘What are you talking about?’ Dad replied with a puzzled look on his face.
Mum told him she and Carolyn had responded to the advert in the Leicester Mercury newspaper, not expecting a response.
After a puzzled thirty seconds, Dad simply shrugged his shoulders and said, ‘I don’t know. I guess we’ll have to. I don’t know.’ Dad smiled and looked at Mum. ‘You’ve applied to have her, so yes, I guess we’ll have to do the right thing and have her.’
That was my foster dad; he was someone who firmly believed that once you have given your word, you’ve got to keep it.
Without any other thought, and being mindful that she’d had the lady on the phone for a few minutes now, Mum muttered, ‘Sorry to keep you waiting. Yes, we would love to foster your baby.’
Before Mum could ask for more details, my birth mum, relieved and excited to have found someone willing to help take care of me, hurriedly said, ‘Thank you. See you, thank you very much...’ and hung up the phone.