Riding in a car with my new family, to what would be my new home, filled me with excitement! As we drove out of the countryside of Dallas, Texas, and into the city, I began to ask my mom and dad a barrage of questions.
“Where are we going?”
“Arlington,” my dad said.
“Where's that?” I asked.
“About thirty minutes away,” my mom said.
“Is it a city?”
“Yep. It even has a couple of amusement parks.”
“They have rides. Fun things to do. Don't worry, you'll love it!” My mom said.
Oldies were playing on the radio and I asked my new dad if we could listen to some country music.
“I only listen to country,” I said.
“Well, you have a radio in your new room, but in the car we listen to oldies.”
“How does a radio work?” I asked.
“Well, they shrink people really small and then put them into the radio at the factory,” my dad said, teasing me.
My imagination took over and I could picture tiny little people with guitars and other instruments, crammed inside the radio. I guessed that TV worked the same way....
“Will I be able to see my girlfriend when we live in Arlington?” I asked.
“You have a girlfriend?” My mom said in disbelief. “How does a five year old have a girlfriend?”
“I'm five and a half!”
“Have you kissed her yet?” My dad asked.
“Gross!” I yelled.
“Tell us about her,” my mum said.
Whilst living in the foster home I met a girl who lived down a long gravel road not far from the house. She was out playing in her yard when I came running down the road, exploring. She looked about the same age as me and so I stopped and said, “Hi!”
“You shouldn't run outside bare foot. There's scorpions out here,” she said.
“I ain't afraid of no scorpions!” I boasted. The truth was I really was afraid of scorpions, and any other insect for that matter, but I wasn't about to tell that to a girl!
“My mom said ain't isn't a word. What are you doing out here?”
“Looking for cool rocks,” I said, handing her a large white stone I picked up.
“My name is Sarah. What's yours? She asked me, taking the rock from my hand and tossing it back out onto the gravel road.
“Randy. I'm gonna be adopted. Do you have real parents?”
Over the next few days I always tried to get away from the foster home because the teens picked on me, and the foster parents were a bit mean to me as well. I'd run away to go and play with her instead, and when I returned, the older kids at the foster home would tease me by singing, “Randy and Sarah sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G! First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes Randy pushing a baby carriage!”
“Shut up!” I'd yell, and run off.
I remember Sarah's family being very inviting. They'd make us lemonade and we'd go into the front yard and sit in the grass with a plate full of homemade cookies and ice cold drinks. The summer was sweltering, but we didn't care.
“Are you my girlfriend?” I asked her one balmy afternoon.
“I think so,” she replied.
“Well, I ain't kissing you!” I said.
“That's disgusting.” She said in a matter-of-fact tone.
“I know.” I replied.
Another time her parents invited me to go swimming at a country club they were part of. The swimming pool was the biggest I'd ever seen and it even had a slide. I'd been learning to swim with my foster parents and I had a chance to show off my new skills, so I told Sarah I was going to go down the slide and into the deep end...
“You can swim in the deep end?”
“I just learned!” I boasted.
I climbed the steps to the slide, and when I reached the top of the platform I yelled out, “I'm gonna be Superman!” Some adults cheered as I went down head first and splashed into the water. I sank like a stone and then began to kick back up and broke through the surface of the pool.
“Yeah!” Sarah squealed, throwing her arms up.
When we were done swimming, her parents dried us off and we put on our clothes for dinner.
The country club had a fancy dining area, but what I remember most vividly was a TV mounted on some kind of bracket. The Wheel of Fortune was on and Sarah made a comment about Vanna White's sparkling dress. “That's so pretty!” She said.
“I'll buy it for you one day when I'm rich!” I said.
Dinner ended and they drove me back home.
Telling my new mom these stories, I stared out the window, a little sad that I might never see Sarah again, but then, off in the distance, I could see the double arches of a McDonalds sign.
“She sounds like a sweet girl,” my mom said.
“Oooh! Can we stop and eat at McDonalds?” I blurted.
“You can see a McDonalds?” My dad asked. “Where?”
“Down there!” I said, pointing off in the distance.
“You must have eagle eyes. We're going to call you 'eagle eye Randy,'” my mom said.
“No Mickey D's today – we'll eat when we get home. I bet you boys are good and tuckered.”
“I never get tired!” I boasted.
“Well, we are.” My dad said.
We reached Arlington and inched closer to my new home. Wesley had fallen asleep and leaned into me, snoring softly. The car turned down some roads as I took everything in and then my dad said, “This is our street,” as we turned into another street with houses lined up on both sides.
The car slowed down in front of the house, and my dad reached up to the window visor, pressing a button that opened up the garage door. Then we pulled in, dad turned the engine off, and closed the garage door. I stepped out of the car whilst my mom climbed out and made her way to the other door and opened it up. Then, she gently took Wesley's seat belt off so she could pick him up, but he stirred, then wrapped his arms around me tightly, like a koala bear clinging to a eucalyptus tree.
“This is the laundry room,” dad said, as we walked through the door.
“This is the kitchen.” Pointing out another room.
“This is the living room. We've got cable TV and the Disney channel.”
“Y'all have cable TV?” I said in wonder.
My mom walked up to a box with buttons sitting on top of the television...
“You push the buttons for the channel you want, and then 'enter'. So, if you want to watch Disney, you punch in three, four, and enter. Go ahead and do it.”
I pushed the tree and four, and then enter, and sure enough a Mickey Mouse cartoon came on.
“Wow...” I couldn't believe it!
“Let's get you guys bathed and into bed.” Dad said.
“I'm not tired!” I said, again.
“Well, bed time is 8.30pm in this house.” Dad said.
He lead us to the bathroom where there were two sinks, a ceramic bath tub, and a stand up shower spout over the white tub. Dad turned the water on to fill the bath, and mom poured in some Mr Bubbles bath foam. The water exploded into a pinkish foam that smelled like bubble gum, and I got naked and climbed in, and my mom gently eased Wesley in as well.
“Hey, I was wonderin'” I said in a thick accent. “Are y'all yankees?”
“We are,” my dad said, smiling...
“Well, I'm a rebel!” I declared.
“Well, I got some bad news for you, Randy. The yankees won.” My mom said.
“Oh. Then I want to be a yankee too!”
We got dried off and dad put an oversized t-shirt on each of us, and lead us up to our new room. I couldn't believe my eyes! There were twin beds side by side, a book case filled with books, a huge bean bag chair, a large swivel chair, and a gigantic teddy bear. On a dresser sat a record player and a radio. On the shelves were plush animals, but I wasn't about to let go of the Snoopy I received as a gift from our social worker. Maybe the other plush toys could make it into my life though.
“Crawl into bed.” My dad said as my mom pulled the blanket up around me and Wesley.
My dad reached onto the shelf and pulled off a large Disney book, and began reading the titles of all the stories inside.
“Read Pinnochio!” I yelled.
He began telling the story, and quickly I fell asleep...It was probably the most peaceful sleep I'd ever had up to that point in my life.
The next morning I woke up to the smell of Eggo Waffles in the toaster. I wandered out into the living room and cartoons were on, so I sat down and my dad asked me if I wanted sugar or syrup and cinnamon on my waffles.
“Syrup!” I said.
He poured a glass of milk for me, and told me to come and drink it. I brought the cup to my lips, took a sip, and then spat it out. “Blach!” I said, scrunching up my face. My dad began to laugh.
“What's wrong with the milk?” Dad asked.
“Dan! You gave him the buttermilk!” My mom said.
“I don't like it! Can I have some plain milk?”
“Yes, you may. We're going to have to teach you how to speak proper English.” Dad told me.
I sat at the dining table and dad poured me a new cup of regular milk, and put a plate of waffles down. Mom put Wesley in a plastic booster seat, and cut up his waffles for him. We ate, and my dad said, “Your grandpa is going to be calling you sometime today.”
“We have a grandpa?” I asked.
“Yes. He lives in Pennsylvania, and we'll meet him in person for Thanksgiving. But for now, he wants to talk to you guys on the phone today.”
We finished eating our breakfast and went back to the living room to watch the TV. At some point my mom said, “I heard your favourite movies are Star Wars and Superman.”
“Are you gonna take us to see 'Return of the Jedi'?” I yelled, hopping with joy!
“As soon as we can, we'll be there. But for now, how would you like to watch Superman?”
She pulled out a VHS tape, and popped it into a large machine. Then she pushed 'play' and the movie began. I couldn't believe my luck! My own copy of Superman? I felt like the luckiest kid on earth. Wesley sat on the couch in my mom's lap, and I laid down in front of the TV.
“Back up a few inches from the TV, you'll hurt your eyes.” My dad said.
Half way through the movie my dad got up and headed back to the kitchen. I could smell hot dogs and macaroni and cheese cooking, and when Superman was over, he fixed us each a plate and we sat down to eat lunch.
“We'll go swimming once lunch has settled and grandpa calls.”
After a few bites into lunch, the phone rang.
My mom got up to answer it, and I could hear her talking...
“They're right here. I'll let you talk to Randy, first.”
She pulled the cord and phone over to me, saying, “It's your grandpa.”
“Hey, grandson.” I heard the voice say. He had a pleasant and warm voice.
“Hi,” I said, nervously.
“What are you boys up to?”
“Eating hot dogs and macaroni and cheese.” I answered. “We got to watch Superman earlier and then after lunch we're gonna go swimming.”
“Sounds like you boys are having some fun. Well, I wanted to welcome you to the family and I want you to know I love you. You don't have to doubt that for a single second. As long as I'm around, you can rely on me and ask me for anything. Okay? When you boys come up for Thanksgiving, we're going to have some fun. You ever seen snow?”
“Snow? Y'all have snow up there?”
“Yep. Lots of it. Let me talk to Wesley now, if you don't mind.”
I handed the phone to mom and they exchanged a few words before she pressed the receiver to Wesley's ear. He didn't say anything, but he was smiling.
After lunch, and talking to our grandpa, dad asked me to help clear the table – something that became a firm tradition in the following years. When we were finished, we all put on our bathing suits and headed out to the back yard where the pool was. The pool took up most of the yard, but I remember being amazed at both the peach and plum trees that bore fresh fruit on their limbs.
“We can eat those?” I asked my dad.
“We'll pick a few after we swim. For now, show me how to dive into the deep end,” he replied.
I walked over the long white diving board, climbed onto it, and ran to the edge, bouncing as I leapt into the water. I swam all the way down to the bottom of the pool, feeling my ears pop with pressure, then using my feet I pushed back to explode through the surface.
“Looks like we've adopted an Olympian,” my mom yelled, clapping. Wesley sat on the steps in the shallow end of the pool, with arm floats on. He splashed the water, oblivious to my diving feat.
We swam for a few hours and then dried off, making our way back into the house. At the end of the day my dad told me while there was still a little summer left, we were going to make a trip to Florida and then begin to prepare for the school year in September.
“I turn 6 in September!” I said.
“You sure do,” dad said. Then he picked me up in his bear-like arms, and swung me around. I let out a shriek of delight, and I guess I had my tongue sticking out as he dropped me onto my bed – my mouth snapped shut with force, and as I bounced, I tasted blood. I began crying hysterically, and my dad didn't hesitate for a second...He grabbed me and pulled me to him tightly.
“I'm sorry! I didn't mean to do that! I'll never hurt you, son. Please know that...I'll never hurt you. We love you unconditionally, and we always will.”
I stopped crying, and with all of me, I believed every single word he told me.
WHEN ALL I'VE EVER HAD TO GIVE IS LOVE
(by Randy E. Halprin)
I adapted to my new family quickly; I was comfortable immediately, and I felt safe. My adoptive parents did everything they could to show Wesley and I that we were loved, and that their home was a final stop on the rough beginning to our short lives.
My dad told me that school would start in September for me, but before it began they wanted to take a trip to the beach. “Have you ever seen the ocean before?” My dad asked.
“No...” I replied.
“Do you want to see the ocean?”
“Can I swim in it?” I asked.
“You sure can, but you'll have to fight off the sharks! They like to nibble on little boys' feet,” Dad said.
“Dan!” My mom interrupted.
“I'm not afraid of sharks,” I said, matter-of-factly.
“No, I didn't think you are,” mom said, “but if one ever does get near you, just bop it in the nose as hard as you can.”
“Okay,” I said.
I vaguely remember packing up a suitcase and my mom loading an ice chest with snacks and little cans of pineapple juice. My parents loaded our luggage into the back of the car and told us we were going to drive the entire way. I'd never been out of State, or very far for that matter, so I was excited about seeing things I'd never seen before. My brother, Wesley, was buckled into his seat and my parents told me to keep an eye on him and make sure he didn't unbuckle it or try to climb out of it. When everyone was in the car, dad started the engine and we began our journey.
Two things stand out the most about the drive to Florida. One was the first fight I remember having with Wesley...In between Wesley and I was another seat belt for a middle passenger, and he grabbed it and swung it at me!
“Stop!” I yelled. Dad looked up in the rear view mirror and told us to knock it off. Wesley swung it at me again and I said, “He won't stop swinging it at me!”
“Boys, quit it or your father is going to pull over on the side of the road and you don't want him to do that.” My mom said.
Wesley didn't stop and with a hard and final smack, the metal buckle hit me on the back. I felt a sharp pain and I let out a cry. Dad, having had enough, pulled over to the side of the road, climbed out and opened my side of the door.
“I told you to knock it off,” he said, sternly.
“It's not me! He keeps hitting me with the seat belt!” I cried.
Dad grabbed the ice chest on the floor board of the car, and put it between us. “That stays there!” He said. “If you two don't stop it and I have to pull over one more time...you don't want to see me angry. Stop crying or I'll give you something to cry about.”
I choked back my tears and went quiet. It felt unfair, but I didn't want to upset him. Dad slammed the car door, climbed into the driver's side and started the car back up.
“How about we put on a tape,” my mom said, breaking the tension. “You boys ever heard Raffi?” She popped in a cassette and a childhood of torment began with the lyrics, “Baby beluga in the deep blue sea...you swim so wild and you swim so free...”
The other thing I remember is a family tradition that began whenever we'd travel. As we would approach the border of a State we were passing through on the way to our destination, my mom would begin, “Here comes Mississippi...uh-uh-uh-uh-uh...” And then we'd all yell, “MISSISSIPPI!” Or whatever State we were crossing.
When we reached Florida, my excitement grew. I'd only ever seen the ocean on television and I wondered what it looked like in real life. Even though I made the bold statement about not being afraid of sharks, secretly, I was terrified and I hoped with everything in me that JAWS wasn't out there waiting to get me.
“Is anyone hungry?” Dad asked.
“Yeah!” Wesley and I said, yelling at the same time.
Up ahead was a large sign. “Randy, tell me what that sign says,” mom asked.
I was just beginning to learn how to read and began to pronounce it.
“Slopey Joe's,” I responded.
“No. Not 'slopey'. 'Sloppy,' My dad corrected.
“Sloppy Joe's.” I repeated.
We neared the restaurant and my dad clicked on his turn signal and we pulled into a parking lot. After we all ate we climbed back into the car and headed to what my dad said was called, 'Clear Water'.
Florida seemed magical to me. The sky was a bright blue with the biggest and puffiest clouds I'd ever seen. They looked like huge marshmallows ready to be plucked out of the sky. Birds were everywhere...Seagulls. Pelicans. The very first pelican I noticed was on the side of the road watching cars pass by. It's beak turning this way and that.
We reached the city and the first thing I noticed was a large building with a painting on the side of it: a man in a ship's crow nest peering through a spy scope.
“You want to take the boys to the beach before we hit the condo?” My dad asked.
“Yeah. I think they'd like that,” mom replied.
My dad made another turn and we pulled into the parking lot of a public beach. My heart pounded. We unbuckled our seat belts and when dad opened his door I could smell the warm salty air, and hear the squeaks and squawks of seagulls flying overhead.
Mom grabbed Wesley out of the back of the car, and then we all closed our doors. We walked across the hot pavement and when we hit the sand I could see the blue water stretching all the way to the edge of the horizon. I'd never seen so much water in my life!
“Go ahead and take your shoes off,” Dad told me.
I kicked them off and peeled off my socks, and felt the hot sand on my bare feet. “Can I run to the water?” I asked.
“Sure. But don't go in. Wait for us to catch up.” Mom said.
I was off like a lightening bolt! I ran through the sand as fast as I could, and when I reached the edge of the beach my feet stopped in wet and slippery sand, and a wave splashed against them. I reached down and picked up a handful of the mud-like sand and squeezed it through my fingers. Another wave rolled in and I kicked the water and let out laughs of joy.
When my parents caught up, my dad said I could wade into the water up to my knees. “No further!” He said. Mom tried to put Wesley down, but he wouldn't budge, so she held him in her arms.
Dad had a camera in his hand and began to furiously snap pictures, catching every moment of our joy. “Hand me another roll!” He yelled to my mom. But I was oblivious to them as I kicked at the water, bending down and splashing it with my hands. It was so blissful that every hardship I'd ever experienced in my short little life, every bit of heart ache, simply vanished in that moment.
“Alright. Alright...We'll hit the beach again tomorrow. Let's go to the condo. We're all pooped!” Mom said.
A few days later we returned home and fortunately there was not a fight between Wesley and I on the drive back. When we were back in Arlington, Texas, preparations began for me going to school. I'd been in Kindergarten at Key Elementary which was just a few blocks away from our home, but now it was time for a new school year! Right before school began, neighbours invited me to go to a small theme park in Grand Prairie, Texas, called, “Sesame's Place,” which was a Sesame Street owned amusement park. I was around the same age as their son, so my parents said it was okay for me to go with them.
We spent the day riding the water slides, seeing Sesame Street themed music shows, and ate Sesame Street themed food. There was a murmur that they were holding surprise auditions for the television show on PBS. We went to watch them because rumors were flying that some of the actual puppeteers and puppets would be interacting with the children, to see how they in turn responded.
There was a good-sized gathering of kids standing around, and a guy in a red Sesame Street shirt began to pluck kids out of the crowd, and stand them to the side. I watched with amusement when the man stopped in front of me and said, “How about you?” Want to meet Big Bird?” I looked at the family who had invited me and they told me to go ahead.
After he had about ten kids gathered, he grabbed a microphone and told the crowd, “That's it for the auditions today folks! However, if you want to watch these kids interact with the puppets, feel free to wait around. This will be recorded, and you never know...It might just show up on a segment of Sesame Street!”
A producer then yelled out, “I need everyone to be quiet! Kids, when he asks your name, just speak into the microphone. Be yourselves. Don't be silly.”
He stopped, held up his hands to the crowd and gave a 'hush' sign, then said, “In 5...4...3...2...1...Action!”
The guy spoke lively into his microphone and then went up to the line of kids gathered and began asking our names. My heart beat nervously when he was in front of me and said, “What's your name?” I looked at him and with the heaviest accent in the whole of Texas' history, I said, “Raaaandy!”
We went through some acting exercises after our introductions, even interacting with a green screen, when suddenly Big bird arrived! I hadn't noticed the garbage can nearby and as if by magic, Oscar the Grouch flipped the lid to the trash can, and popped his head up! Big Bird and Oscar began speaking to each other and then asking all of us questions. I felt like I was really on Sesame Street!
After it was all done, the producer shortened the group of kids to a few. I didn't make the cut, but they allowed the people who brought me to order a video tape of the event, and the family promised that when it arrived they'd give it to my parents. That video exists out there somewhere to this day.
When we got home I told my parents all about how I was almost on Sesame Street and they seemed to be upset about it. My dad called the neighbors up and there was a brief argument, and I heard my parents say they were trying to protect me. They didn't want my biological parents to come searching for me if I was on TV.
Some months later a modelling agent would see me at school and approach my parents about getting me into modelling. They immediately turned her down, citing the same reasons.
It makes me wonder to this day what my life would be like now, had I been on Sesame Street, or been a child model.