The Look of Love: The Tale of My Two Jennys

February 22, 2016, by Leslie Roberts Clingan

The Blended Blog
In trying to decide what to write for this "The Look of Love" series, I considered the love I have for PC, which lead to reflecting on my love for my daughters and granddaughters, which spilled over into love for my many and varied pets, my family, my friends.  Not necessarily in that order.
But I felt like many of those "loves" were very well-covered by my TBB comadres already.

So I chose to write about my love for two young girls who have impacted my life, my two Jennys.  I will share the story of one Jenny here and the story of the other Jenny on my blog at Once Upon a Time & Happily Ever After.  Maybe I can entice you into visiting me there for that post in the futue.

Today's Jenny was my student in elementary school.  I think Jenny was my student for only a year, year and a half at most, but somehow she greatly impacted my life in a relatively short period of time.
Jenny was the second girl, fourth oldest child in a family of about seven or eight children.  She transferred to Schuster Elementary, where I was the librarian, in the beginning of second grade, I think.
Blended Blog
The oldest Molina child was Javier in the fifth grade, then a sister in fourth, a brother in third, Jenny followed by some baby sisters in kinder and first.  Stepping-stone siblings with a few preschool-aged little ones still in diapers at home.

Schuster was and still is a small school with around 300 students.  While there, I prided myself in learning almost all of the children's names very quickly and being able to call them by name when they visited the library.  I also got to know a number of the parents as many of them walked their students to and from school every day.  The Molina children in lived in government subsidized projects about a half mile from school and usually walked themselves to school without either parent accompanying them.  Safety in numbers, maybe?  I learned later that Mr. Molina worked construction in Colorado and was rarely home.  Mrs. Molina was in El Paso alone with all of the children.

It wasn't until our school Halloween carnival that I really began bonding with the children beyond just working with them in the library when each one came with his teacher and class.  On Halloween, however, the Molinas really shone brightly because they had the most creative homemade costumes.  I remember that Javier and Richie were scarecrows wearing too-big adult clothing and newspaper torn in strips for stuffing.  We had a good giggle because they were so "over-stuffed" they had trouble walking all day without leaving a newspaper trail behind them.
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The little girls above were neighbors of the Molinas.  Javier and Richie are standing to my left.
As winter approached, I noticed the children came to school without the proper wraps.  No gloves, no hats, and sweaters instead of coats.  All of the school-aged Molinas had begun coming to the library after school, staying until I shoo-ed them out the door for home.  I often had snacks for the children who stayed after school and the Molinas would gobble up whatever I gave them.  Once the sun started setting earlier, I was worried about all of them walking home at dusk in the cold.  I began loading them into my Windstar van for the quick trip home.  In exchange, the children would help me with little projects in the library.

My own parents came for a visit and met the Molinas sometime late that fall.  Because the children only spoke limited English, it was sometimes difficult for me to communicate with them and my parents could only smile at these little ones.  By Christmastime, I had grown quite attached to all of the children with a particular fondness for Jenny.  She was funny and spirited and feisty.  At seven or eight years old, Jenny had more common sense than I did at 35.  She was the one who kind of kept the rest of the children in line, even if she wasn't the oldest.  My parents sent money to help me buy all of the children hats and gloves and little treats for Christmas.  That last day of school before the holidays began, I had my first opportunity to meet Mrs. Molina when I dropped the children off at home.  Her warm smile broke through the language barrier between us.  She seemed to be a good mother who loved her babies and did the best she could by them.

Spring picture day neared and I knew the Molinas could not afford to purchase even the cheapest packages of photos for each child.  I sent a note home in my broken Spanish to let Mrs. Molina know I wanted to buy the children's school pictures.  And oh, how spiffed up they each came to school that day.
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This is Jenny.

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And these are some of her siblings but not all.

Keep reading to find out what happened to the other pictures.

The end of school came and I knew I would miss this family of children a lot.  I promised to stop by to check on them now and then over the summer months.  On one trip to see them, I was greeted by other children in the apartment complex that I knew from school who informed me that the Molina family was gone.

No one knew where they had gone.

I was so sad.

For years, I kept one of the school photos taken of each of the Molina children in a little package with notes and messages from them all tied up in ribbon in the nightstand beside my bed.  I had a special love for them and prayed that God would keep them safe, wherever they were.
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Fast forward, six years.  I had transferred from Schuster and was working as the librarian at the Career and Technical high school which shared part of its facility with the School-Age Parent Center.  On one of my first days at work, a young pregnant girl walked into the library.  I looked up from my work to greet her and then did a double-take when I realized it was Jenny Molina.  She recognized me about the same time I recognized her.  Jenny was about five months pregnant and in the eighth grade.

We reconnected over the next few months before her baby was born.  I learned that Jenny's father and brothers were living and working in Colorado and that she and her sisters were living with their paternal grandmother in downtown El Paso.  When I asked why the family had split up and moved, Jenny explained that her mother had been caught selling drugs that summer six years before.  Mrs. Molina had gone out one morning and had never returned home.  The children waited all day for their mother to return but she never did.

Jenny took charge.

She contacted their father's mother across the border in Mexico.  Their abuela, whom the children knew only slightly, traveled to El Paso to check on the kids.  Jenny had suspected that her mother was doing something illegal because although unemployed, she would often be gone all day only to return home with cash and jewelry.  Jenny found her mother's stash of jewelry in the house and went with her grandmother to take it to be pawned.  Mr. Molina returned from Denver to pick up his sons but left his daughters for their grandmother to watch.  The girls and their grandmother moved into a small apartment downtown.  Now Jenny was pregnant and living with her boyfriend Angel's family.
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Jenny would visit the library whenever she could but I think her school attendance was pretty spotty.  One day I took my precious packet of pictures and notes from the Molinas to school to share with Jenny.  I don't know that I ever saw her more moved.  She looked over each of the pictures, talking about her sisters, how the clothing each one had on had been passed down from one to the other.  Then she carefully examined the photos of Javier and Richie.  It was almost as if by looking at the photos she was able to travel back in time.  She said she hadn't seen her brothers since shortly after those pictures were taken so I gave them to her.

As the baby's due date approached, Jenny disappeared again.  She dropped out of school.  PC and I visited the Mexican restaurant where the baby's father was supposed to be working but he was no longer there.  I found myself looking for Jenny everywhere I went.  El Paso is that kind of small, big town.  But I never ran across her path.

I think working at the School-Age Parent Center, seeing so many sweet, young mommies with babies - sometimes even more than one baby - took a toll on me.  I only lasted as a librarian there for a year before transferring to another elementary school.

My fifth year at Moye Elementary, I went into school to set up the library on one of the days before school officially began. The building was open for registration.  Parents and children were coming and going all day.  During lunch, the main doors to the school were locked but because the AC had not been turned on yet, I had the library door leading outside propped open.  I looked up from where I was working to see a young pregnant mother with two little ones in tow coming toward me.

Jenny.

Again.

We picked up right where we left off.  Hugs, tears, but only a few because Jenny is tough that way.  I was thrilled to learn that she was there to register her daughter Daisy for first grade at Moye.  Over the next few months, I would see Jenny on a regular basis, at least a couple of times a week.  Daisy was quiet and shy and a little guarded with me at first but by Christmas, we were fast friends.
But before the school year's end, Jenny and her little family were gone again.

I haven't seen Jenny since 2012.  I have tried to find Daisy in the school district database but she doesn't seem to be registered with El Paso ISD.  As I prepared to write this post, I got out the packet again.  It is no longer beside my bed but in a notebook with special keepsakes from students over the years.  It was good to see Jenny, again, if only in pictures.

Tonight, I scoured through pictures I have taken from activities I did with my students at Moye in hopes of finding a photo of Daisy.

I did.

This one was taken at the beginning of her first grade year.  We were making origami diapers to go with a lesson on treating books like babies.
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The picture below was taken toward the end of the school year.
We are making Little Miss Muffet finger puppets.
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Daisy would be in the fifth grade this year.  And Jenny would be about 25 years old.

I know one day I will look up and see Jenny walking back into my life, if only temporarily.  But when she does I will be ready to hug her and tell her I love her again.

Hugs and kisses,

Leslie









Leslie is a regular contributor to The Blended Blog.  Wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, kitty-mom.  She is trying to figure out who she is after recent retirement. You can also follow her adventures to rediscovery after retirement at Once Upon a Time & Happily Ever After.

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