The Life And Times Of Wanda Bruner Butler

by Wanda Bruner Butler
Copyright © 2000

Chapter 8

* Giving Notice we were Closing
* Packing and Running the Home at the Same Time
* Selling the Home

Giving Notice We Were Closing

After a few days, Jim called back and said it was all go with the department, and the real estate company said it looked good to them. Jim told us what the down payment would be, and to get busy and start giving notices to all the different departments we worked with. Since the house was empty there wasn't a problem with a date for moving in. A few days later I called Mr. Shapiro's office and made an appointment to come in and talk with him.

The next day I drove over to the probation department in Fairfield and by the time I arrived I was becoming very nervous. What would I say, or more to the point, what would he say? Here, we had a sure thing, and by moving we would be starting all over again. Wes wouldn't have his job at the University to tide us over until we could start getting placements.

When I was ushered into his office, Mr. Shapiro offered me a chair and ask what he could do for me. I was so nervous, my throat was dry, and I was sure he could hear my heart pounding. A lady entered the office and ask if I would care for a cup of coffee. I declined but said a glass of water would be nice. After a few sips of water I felt more relaxed and started explaining about our decision to move to Yakima.

After listening to what I had to say, he leaned back in his chair and asked if I was really sure we wanted to uproot our children and move so far away. He explained that we would be taking a chance on starting anew and were needed where we were. I said I was tired, really tired, and felt we needed a change. I went on to explain that the Welfare Department in Yakima had offered us a good deal and we had found a home that would be suitable. It wasn't as large as the home we had now but was new, and we would only be licensed for six; at that he smiled. I told him the pay was double and we would be working with teenagers.

He said, "I see your point, but you know we received notice our grant was approved, to build, and we had decided to hire you and your husband as intake parents. You would have quarters to live in and days off, and just think, an eight-hour day; but it will be a year or longer before we start. You have been a real asset to us and we want to give you and Mr. Butler first chance at the job." When he said that, the old feeling came creeping over me again. Am I doing right in turning down a sure thing? But I thought about Carol and Curtis living in a setting like that, our front yard would be a cement driveway, no trees or any place to have friends over. I thanked him for the offer, but I didn't want my children raised in that type of setting. As I started to leave, Mr. Shapiro said he understood, but if we changed out minds to let him know, as they wouldn't be hiring staff for some time.

As I was driving home, I gave a big sigh of relief. I didn't know why I got so uptight, I had made a decision and stuck with it, even though the offer sure sounded good. The next day, while I was still feeling brave, I called the Welfare Department in Vallejo. Mr. Tucker had accepted a higher position, so was no longer head of foster homes. I really missed him as he was a lot of help to me that first year. The lady who was now in charge was nice and we became friends. I felt comfortable calling about problems, and she was always ready to help in any way she could. When she came on the line I ask if she would have time to see me tomorrow if I came down in the morning. She assured me she would be there and didn't have any pressing things to do. We agreed on a time that would let me get everyone off to school and make the 45 minute drive.

The next morning I rushed to get everything done and assured Cathy I would be home before the school bus arrived at four p.m. For once I was able to be on time. No one forgot their lunch or had a mishap, so I didn't have to run a change of clothes to school. We had several accidents, on the bus, as the little ones were scared -- starting a strange school and knowing no one. That was almost the last straw for them. Within a few days they were, not only taken from their parents and placed with people they didn't know, but required to attend a new school. I tried to take them to school the first day, and then Carol or Curtis would sit with them until they could make friends.

I made it with time to spare and, once again, found myself explaining our desire to move. She leaned back in her chair and said, "I had a feeling this visit concerned your wish to move. I don't know where we will ever find a home setting like yours. Yours is our only home large enough to accept, four, five or even six placements at one time. We try to keep families together. I don't blame you and Mr. Butler for taking a job with more pay. You both have worked hard the past four years with very little pay and we thank you for helping Solano County start their first emergency home." After talking for a while I thanked her for all the help she had given us and said if everything went well we would be leaving the first of September. I asked her to please accept this as our thirty-day notice. As I rose to leave, she asked if we would still accept placements and I assured her we would.

Driving home I found I had time to stop for a hamburger and coke. It was a treat not to cook my own. I can still see that little stand at the edge of Vacaville. It was small but clean, a kind of Mom and Pop stand. I ordered the works and went back to the car to eat and think. Boy, did I have a lot of thinking to do. My head was hurting just thinking about packing. It's so hard to decide what to keep and what to get rid. I decided what I needed was a list. First on the list would be to LIST the house. After finishing my lunch and putting the trash in the can, I drove to the office of a small, free tabloid, that contains only ads, I think it was called the "Nickel." The ad read, "Large seven-bedroom house on seven and a half acres, plus two guest houses, $28,000. Owner will carry second." (We had sold two and a half acres the year before.)

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Packing and Running the Home at the Same Time

As I left the office, I glanced at my watch; it was almost two p.m. By the time I drove home and started dinner the bus would be there and I wouldn't have time to do any more thinking until everyone was in bed. When I arrived home, Cathy said she'd had a nice day and had spent most of it outside. As she gathered her two children from the playground she said, "Oh, I almost forgot, Probation will be out in about an hour with two brothers and a sister and I think they are all school age."

The bus was on time and once again I stood at the window watching the bus unload. It held about 40 to 50 students and most days, 19 of them were from our home. Now we were down to nine plus our two, (Alan was married, Doug in Yakima, and Dick in his new home). Of the nine, only six were in school. I wondered if the new owners of our place would continue to let the neighbor children use the large bus shelter Wes had build at the end of the driveway. My thoughts went back to the time when Wes, because of worrying about the children getting wet while waiting for the bus, had built a large shelter for them. It was enclosed with windows on three sides and was large enough to hold 20 or more children. He had built it with the intention of all the children using it, not just those from our home.

About four P.M., Probation arrived with three boys. She laughed and said, "Our girl turned out to be a boy." After all the paperwork was completed and the boys were out testing the play equipment, the probation officer asked if she could sit and visit while I started dinner. I told her to come on back and I'd fix her a glass of juice. As I checked to see how dinner was coming along, she said, "Boy, you sure set the office on fire with your announcement of closing your home. Everyone wants to know what we will do and where we will take placements." I told her maybe our leaving would push the funding through for the new emergency home. She thought for a minute, and said, "Probably, but it won't have the home touch."

After she left, I put my list on the counter and served dinner. The new brothers were so busy checking out everything I had to send someone out to tell them dinner was ready. They didn't seem the least bit upset about being placed, they were only worried if they could go back outside and play after dinner. I reassured them that everyone could, but only until bath time, and that there was always tomorrow. While the older girls cleaned up, I gathered up my list and headed for the living room and my rocker. Wes was watching television, upstairs, so it was just me and my memories. My chair wasn't nearly as much fun as when I had to race for it and defend it with my life -- and how long had it been since I'd had my sandwich stolen -- and worst of all, no one complained if I sang. Jewel and Donita just turned their radios louder. If I really became carried away, they just shrugged their shoulders and either went to their rooms or outside.

Well, too many memories were pushing through my mind that night. I called the children in and told them it was bath time. After everyone was snug in their beds, I turned in, too, as it had been a long, stressful day. Wes said, "There's always tomorrow and, after all, we have a month to pack."

The next week the "Nickel" came out with our ad. That evening we had our first phone call. A couple asked if they could drive out to see the place. I agreed and sent someone to tell Wes, who was out on the tractor. They would just take a quick look around and would come back the next day to really look it over. I didn't want the children upset, but there was no way to keep them from knowing. About an hour later a young couple rang the door bell. When I answered the door, they explained they were the ones who called about the house.

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Selling the Home

I invited them in and started to tell them we ran a children's home, when all the younger ones ran in to see what was going on. I guess it surprised them to see so many children. I shooed everyone back into the play room, and explained that we had an emergency home. The lady said it was a shock to see so many. At that time we had four different nationalities, all colors of hair and eyes.

It was almost dark, so I showed the lady around inside, while Wes took the man on a tour outside. He explained about the water, showed him the well and walked the fence lines. He told him the soil was rich and would grow about anything. By now it was too dark to see anything so the couple left, saying they'd call the next morning to make an appointment to come out and really take a tour.

After everyone was in bed, Wes and I went upstairs and discussed the couple. I ask if he thought they were really interested or just looking. He thought for a while, then said he felt they were interested and felt they would, probably, be back. The man was very interested in the land and fruit trees and asked lots of questions about the water system. He wanted to know if it would carry all three houses and a couple of calves. Wes said he looked kinda funny when he told him, if it could carry twenty-eight people, (that was counting Cathy's family too) it could handle seven and a half acres. I said I guessed I could mark off "sell house" from my list. Wes in his slow, soft voice said I'd best not jump the gun yet.

The next morning the lady called wanting to know if she could come out and finish looking things over. I said, "Sure come on out." I had barely finished the dishes when the door bell rang. As I dried my hands and started for the door, I ran into two of the brothers coming to tell me "That lady" was here again.

Some of the others had invited her into the living room, so she was waiting for me. I ask if she wanted to see inside again or outside. The phone rang, and when I answered, it was a lady wanting to come out to see the house. Before I could show her upstairs, we had two more calls. I went to the door and ask Wes if he would let the watering go and come in to answer the phone. I hated to ask him to answer the phone as he couldn't hear well and it made him nervous. He agreed to come in, saying he would throw in a load of laundry while waiting. After showing the lady through the house, we went out to see the other two houses, the garden, fruit trees and my flowers.

As we returned to the house, she took out her check book, saying her husband told her if she liked what she saw to put a deposit on the house. We sat at the table and I explained what Wes and I thought was a fair down payment, the terms we expected, the second payment of $35.00 per month with 6% interest. We would hold a second mortgage of a little over seven thousand dollars. It would take quite a while to pay off the second as the interest would amount to $34.30. If they decided to sell, we would have to be paid in full, no carry over.

She agreed and wrote out a check to hold it, until we could go to the title company. We both agreed that September first would be fine for their move in day, as that was the day we could take possession in Yakima. We told her they could start moving some things the week before. As we walked her to the car she asked if we could meet at the title company the next morning about ten and that was fine with us. We hadn't told any of the children as we wanted to be sure before we said anything.

The next morning we met at the agreed time, signed the papers, made out the second mortgage and no longer owned a children's home. At the moment we were homeless. Oh, we had the house across from the high school and the house on "F" street, but not a children's home, as neither of them was large enough. When we arrived home, I took out my list and crossed out "sell home" and wrote "home sold."

We started the month of August with thirteen placements. (Remember some of our placements lapped over into the next month, or longer, so we might have more than the new placements.) Donita cried when she found out we were closing our home. When I tried to put my arm around her, she jerked away and said she needed some time alone and ran to her bedroom. I started to follow her, when Jewel came stomping in. Her eyes were flashing fire and she demanded to know if it were true, that we didn't want them anymore. I said, "Oh, Jewel you know that isn't true," but she was so angry with me, she turned and ran out of the house, slamming the door behind her. I was afraid she would run away, so I went looking for her.

On the way out I met Mary Jo and she wanted to know if it were true we were closing. It seems one of the brothers had overheard enough to know we had sold out. I had wanted to tell them myself, but had waited too long. I walked outside and found Jewel on the swing set, swinging high and hard. I ask if we could go in and have a talk. She kept swinging at first as though she had to think it over, then slowly let the swing die until it stopped. When she started for the house, I called her name, she stopped and let me put my arm around her.

We walked to the house without talking and when we entered the kitchen I ask if she would make us a cup of cocoa. After she had the water heating, she sat across from me at the table. I tried to explain that when a home was found, she would be moved whether our home was open or closed. She reached across the table and took my hand in hers and said, "You don't understand, just knowing you and pop are here, and that we could come visit or call when we needed to talk to you. . . . " Then lowering her voice, she said, "You're just supposed to be here." Without another word she jumped up and ran from the room.

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