Today I went with my supervisor on a home visit. It was only her second time meeting with the family, but last time she was there, the little girl refused to come out of her room and talk, so she asked me to come along and give it a shot. The house was on the north side of the city and looked extremely run down from the outside. Apparently the north side used to be mostly Italian and Polish immigrants, but in recent years has become quite impoverished and now is where much of the city’s refugee resettlement occurs. It’s not regarded as a very safe area either. As we drove, my supervisor said, “if you ever have a client here, please don’t come after dark.” That makes me sad, especially because 5 minutes away, we’re all comfortable in our fancy private university up on the hill.
The inside of the house was so charming and cozy. The walls were covered in dream catchers and hanging fleece blankets (which were definitely a unique design choice) but it felt homey and I could tell they felt good there. There were so many magnets on the fridge, I don’t think there was a centimeter of free space.
The girl is 12 years old and hardly leaves her room. She has a physical disability, but was also deeply affected by the death of her 15-year-old sister a couple of years prior. There is currently a CPS investigation on the family because this little girl will not attend school anymore, and that’s how we got called in. The mother was kind and genuine, and seemed much more invested in her kid than other parents I’ve worked with. She did some paperwork with my supervisor while I sat on the floor outside the girl’s room and talked to her through the door.
I asked her what she did in there all day and she told me she paints. I told her that I painted too—that I wasn’t very good, but it was relaxing, so I did it anyway. She laughed at me a little. I asked her if she had art class in school and she said yes, but she doesn’t like to go because if the art teacher saw how good she was, they’d make her teach the class and she’s too shy to teach the class. I told her I’d love to see her paintings one day and she said she doesn’t like when other people see her paintings.
What do you paint?
Whatever won’t get out of my head
It’s scary to show people art that’s really personal
She slid a piece of paper under the door. It was a collection of brightly colored hearts and squiggles and some flowers; it was much more cheerful than I expected. I told her it was beautiful and she slid another paper under the door. It said “TWILIGHT” in capital letters and surrounding it had all the names of the characters from the books. Edward was underlined. Are you Team Edward? I asked. She opened the door a crack and let me in.
Her walls were covered floor to ceiling in her paintings. One particularly struck me. It was drawn in pencil and when I asked her what it was she said, a girl stuck in a mirror. I asked her if she felt stuck. She said she feels stuck in her room. I don’t really like to come out of here. We sat on the floor and talked about that. We talked about school and why she doesn’t want to go. She said there’s too many bad kids and she never gets to learn because the teachers are always yelling at the bad kids. She said she has no friends because she doesn’t really like to socialize.
Every time you make a friend, they never stay in your life forever, so what’s the point of having them?
It sounds like that has happened to you before.
It happens to me all the time.
She kept fidgeting with this weird doll. It was dirty and torn and looked like it was for someone much younger than her, but I could tell it brought her comfort anyway. I wanted to ask her about it, but I didn’t. There were those glow-in-the-dark stars stuck all over the back of her door and ceiling. I pointed at them and said I loved them.
My name means “star” in Spanish. That’s why I like them a lot.
You said it right. She smiled. Nobody ever says it right.