Saturday, July 14, 2007
Orphan Train..what the heck is that?????
It's just what it sounds like, a train carrying orphans. In our day and age, it's not that we don't have orphans, but we have a 'system' for addressing their aloneness. That hasn't always been the case. Before I tell you about that, and the origins of the TRUE ORPHAN TRAIN, I should tell you how personally involved I am with the 'orphan' concept. Most of you know my new friend, Ebby. What you see in the blog pictures looks like a perfectly lovely cat that anyone could/would love. And that's true and not true. Ebby is "a-social", meaning she is scared to death of everyone she encounters, and every situation that occurs. It's nothing I was expecting or prepared for when I said I would take her. I couldn't have imagined a cat, who had lived with 'people', indoors, a pet, being as isolated as she keeps herself. Certainly NOT what I had hoped for when I decided I needed a companion. I was delighted with the speed and efficiency the Universe answered my petition for a middle aged cat. I was SO very specific in what I wanted. Read about it back in Sept and Oct. of 2006 over at Pieces From my scrapbag..link on the sidebar. I sort of forgot to add friendly and loving to my list of requirements....OL
What I have come to recently is, that if I hadn't taken her, and she'd gone to a shelter, she never would have even been put UP for adoption. She wants nothing to do with anybody she doesn't know, and would have 'flunked' the socialized test. She was left an orphan in the most cruel way..unprepared for the world she lives in. She's been with me 10 months now, and we have made progress in socialization. She has gotten to know me enough to trust me when I call her, or reach down to touch her. But she's still a very nervous Nellie, jumping at noises outside, and running from the sound of a car door closing.
But on to the reason for the post....
The saga of the Orphan Trains that left New York carrying unwanted children west across America, in hopes of finding them homes. It sounds like a happy one, but I have serious doubts about that. Being forced to leave what little security they had in the familiar, and only 'hope' that they would find a home with a 'good' family and not a 'slave master in the making'.
In 1853 there were over 30,000 immigrant children living in the streets of New York City. A seminarian, Charles L. Brace, founded the Children's Aid Society, and for the next 70 years transported children west to America's frontiers in hopes of a family for each of them. Over 200,000 children rode that train, heading west. One must believe some of them found good, loving homes.
In the 1980's a special was, in documentary form, for TV. The narrator was a Mrs. Fuchs, who had been an orphan train child. Her story, while mostly bittersweet in it's portrait of her life, touched my heart. As an adoptive mom to 5, it's hard for me to accept that there wss NO goodness shown any of the children. And so I wrote to her, and she answered my letter. It was a lovely reply, and I wish I remembered her words, or that I still had the letter.
Jeanette Oke, who writes the Christian based books such as Love Comes Softly, which was made into a mini series on the Hallmark Channel writes of similiar happening in her books. The series follows the young daughter into marriage and parenthood. In one episode, the town is called to gather at the church in preparation for meetin the Orphan Train which will be arriving that day.
The children are literally paraded in front of the residents, and 'looked over' like livestock, in hopes of a home within that community. You can imagine the humiliation at standing there for inspection and being passed over as many children were.."too old, too young, only one child not both of you, a handicap, a lisp, crossed eyes, to thin" the list was long. And if you weren't selected, back on the train til the next community.
I believe there have been one or two episodes on Little House on the Prairie about the Orphan Train as well, altho no mention is ever made of it in the Little House books. The time period is right, and no doubt the train may have stopped in a community where the Ingalls lived.
If you would want to know more about the 'real deal', and not just my fanciful name for using my unloved and abandoned blocks, Google Orphan Train, or the name of the seminarian, Charles L. Brace, or Children's Aid Society, still active today.
There are some books on the subject, and one trilagy that I know of, but can't remember the author off hand. I'll have to look and see if I can find the book. The second book, which I have, is called "The Little Sparrows". I found it on the library book sale which is why I have only the 2nd one.
Orphan blocks, like refugee children are not held in very high regard.I feel those blocks are another link to our quilting heritage. Not every child is beautiful or wanted, but that doesn't mean they don't have a purpose. I'm not much of a "planner" when it comes to quilts. I'm more likely to figure out how a block is pieced, and then pull scraps and begin making them. Sometimes it becomes a quilt, and sometimes I just don't like it well enough to make alot of them. Sometimes I make way too many...LOL. And Orphans are born!!
To end on a happy note, I will say that I'm delighted to be part of Blog Land where I've found sooooo many others who just have to 'rescue' things...kittens, old quilts, abandoned mirrors (*VBG*) and the like. It's good to know you have company!