Going to bed at 7:30 was crazy. It wasn’t even dark. But that’s the way they did things at the Home for the Friendless in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The Home was an ancient brick building where my brother, sister, and I lived while our parents tried again to work out their problems. On our first night there, I bathed, brushed my teeth, put on nightclothes, and climbed into bed in the hot and stuffy dormitory.

Mrs. Stone, the monitor, shook her finger and said, “No more talking. Just stay quiet and go to sleep.”

“But it’s still light outside,” whined one little girl.

“Shhh.” As Mrs. Stone turned to leave, she stopped to add a warning. “If you get up during the night, don’t drink any water or you’ll wet the bed.” Then she disappeared into her apartment near the bathroom sinks.

Even though I was there with other girls whose families had problems, I felt terribly alone. It was miserable being separated from Dad and Mama and relocated to a strange place. I had pretended it was normal so my little brother and sister wouldn’t be scared. But that evening I couldn’t comfort them because they were in their own dorms. I knew I wouldn’t see them very often, and I already missed them so much I felt sick.

After flopping on top of the stiff sheets, I watched the last of the daylight spill over our beds from the windows. I felt abandoned. What were Mama and Dad doing while I was trying so hard to doze off? Were they arguing again or going to the movies? I got all twitchy, lying there thinking and waiting for cool air to arrive.

I could hear roller rink sounds from several blocks away. The organ was playing “Take Me out to the Ballgame,” and I could hear hundreds of skate wheels humming on the rink floor. The mingling of steel wheels and music in the air hypnotized me. I began to imagine how different things would be if I were a magician. I would soar back to the past and live with Mama and Dad again so we three kids could be cozy under one blanket and go to sleep after dark like normal people. It was not normal for my brother and sister and me to sleep during the daytime, in three different beds, in rooms filled with kids we didn’t know.

When the sun finally quit for the day, a kindhearted breeze wafted through the screens to cool my skin, and I finally drifted into slumber. I dreamed that I was flying with my brother under one arm and my sister under the other, and I was brave enough to fly wherever I wanted without asking permission.

It was fun zipping wherever I wanted to go, though something kept my flights from turning out right. It dawned on me that I had left Bobby and Patty behind, so I made a graceful U-turn back to the Home and into the boys’ window. Bobby was too scared to join me because he had forgotten that I knew how to fly. I grabbed the back of his pajama top anyway and whooshed into the nursery to scoop up Patty, but she was sound asleep. I fluttered above her, calling her name softly so as not to wake the other little kids.

My plan was to float through my parents’ window with Bobby and Patty and say, Surprise! But I didn’t know where they lived or if they remembered who we were. Mama and Dad were always moving. Why couldn’t they stay in one place for a while? It would make flying to them a whole lot easier.

Instead of gliding into my parents’ house, I found myself trapped inside a huge room that was inside another room that was inside another room. I got so airsick that I had to abort the flight.

I awoke tangled in my sheets. It took a while for me to go to sleep again, and then once more I was flying. That time we three kids made it to the great outdoors and were surrounded by blue sky instead of wallpaper. I loved the sensation, so I floated for a long time, holding Patty by her middle finger and Bobby by his thumb and kicking as fast as I could to stay up … until I saw telephone wires ahead. I dove under them and zoomed up, up, and away into wide open space only to find more telephone wires high above the earth.

I never did make it to freedom with my brother and sister that night, but since I didn’t know where freedom was, I decided it was a whole lot easier just to wake up.

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  • Renee

    When will your book be released?

    • Betty Auchard

      Renee, the book will be released Nov 1, but it can be pre-ordered at Amazon and Keplers Books in Menlo Park right now. That way you would get it a few days before November. Doncha wanna be the first one on your block to have this book? I can’t hear you…say it a little louder, please.

  • Mary

    Can’t wait for the release. Such a fascinating place and story. So special that you have that experience to share.

  • Bob Rose

    I first ‘met’ Betty through ‘Classmates’ a few months ago, since we went to the same High School. Englewood High in Englewiid, Colo.I was immediately attracted to her writing style and skills, and was very fortunate indeed that she allowed me to review “Home for The Friendless” I can’t find the words to tell you how much I enjoyed it. We shsred many experiences growing up, and she is such a talented story writer. She has even encouraged me to tell some of my own stories, and been patient enough to read them, even with her busy schedule. I can’t applaud this lady enough.

  • Don

    I can hardly wait for this book to come out!!! I was lucky enough to be able to read a preview copy online and am overwhelmed by the depth of your story. Truly moving … and funny as all get out too! I want this book in my hands!

    • Betty Auchard

      Oh Don. I LOVE YOU, and not ashamed to say so in front of all these people. You have very good judgement. Thanks for your wonderful words. I love this book, too.

  • Jeri Paradise

    Hi Betty, I’ve preordered as instructed!! Can’t wait to get this book. Hope to see you in October?

  • Vicki Wynne

    Hi, Betty, again,
    My last message took off before I finished! Thanks again for including me on your list and letting me know about your new book and website. I will pre-order your book as soon as I finish here. I love you talking on your website. What a great story you are sharing! Let me know when you speak and do your signings. You are a beautiful writer with a wonderful spirit that touches others deeply. I am so glad to know you. Best wishes!

  • Marilyn Drenkhahn

    I can relate to Betty and her two siblings living in and out of the Home for the Friendless. When she moved out, my brother and I moved in. Even though by then, the name was changed to the Childrens Home, our stories are almost the same because we both knew that someday things would be better for our families.

    A former resident of the Childrens Home……….
    Marilyn Stark Drenkhahn

    • Betty Auchard

      Marilyn, I wish I knew how to contact other former members of The Home for the Friendless. It would be a great reunion, wouln’t it? I think many of them probably remember it as The Children’s Home since the name was changed in 1940. It has a softer sound and not so grim. And all of them have stories to tell as to why they were there, and the reasons were probably the same…”parents with problems.” Thanks so much for leaving a comment.

  • Bob Peal

    I encourage you to buy and read Betty Auchard’s latest book “The Home for the Friendless: A journey of moving, hoping and loving”. It is an intensely pleasurable book to read. I know because I not only read it I helped Betty write it. I am Betty’s one and only brother, Bob Peal (Robert Irving Peal to be precise the one in the middle of the cover photo with the baggy stockings). I guess I am a “resource” or memory jogger for my sister. Its fun to reminisce but it’s more fun and exciting to reminisce and record significant parts of early family life that includes successes, failures, humor, some sadness, a lot of fun and a great deal of love. You may see some of yourself in these pages. You may even discover how much fun you really had in your family. We did and I hope you do, too.