Thursday, March 3, 2016


My first memories of Kurn Hattin Homes were visiting with my Grampy John.   Sometimes I would go into the classrooms with my grampy.  He would bring treats for the students.  (My mother taught there, for one year, right after her divorce.  I was 5.  She taught pre-K). I didn't really know what the difference was between Kurn Hattin and any other school.  I just loved visiting with my grampy.  Everyone knew him and everyone loved him.

I remember one time, instead of going into the school, grampy let me sit outside on the grass and wait for him because a little boy, my age, was playing out there too.  It was a grassy bank, sloping down from the main building, a long hill.  Trees interspersed on the hill.

The little boy was swinging on the low branch of a tree.  He told me that he lived there, at the school.  I must have asked him why, not really understanding it wasn't just a school, and he said because he had set a fire in his house.  I asked him why he did that, and he told me it wasn't on purpose, but his parents didn't want him to live there anymore.  We held onto the branch and kicked out legs out forward, then tucked them under us, so we could swing back and forth until the momentum stopped and we had to push off again.  

I told him I was sorry he couldn't go home.  He told me he like being there better.  He liked being at Kurn Hattin better.  He wanted to live at Kurn Hattin.  I couldn't imagine not being with my mother.  

Even though my parents were recently divorced, I didn't really understand anything about "broken" homes, or abuse, or children who needed to be somewhere other than their own houses with their own families.  I didn't know about that.  I didn't really have any memories of my biological father being home, so I didn't know any difference when he was gone.  I was loved so deeply and lavishly by my grandparents, my mother, my aunts and uncles... I didn't know anything but love.  

I also remember being a little jealous, sharing my grampy with the kids there, when he spoke to them in the hallways, or in the classrooms.  He acted like he loved them too.  And they seemed to love him.  But the little boy, swinging on the tree branch by his arms, made me understand that the children there needed love, and my grampy was so full of love, I should not be selfish.  I felt proud that he was my grampy.  And I knew I wanted to be just like him when I grew up.

Stella at Kurn Hattin
And throughout my years, growing up, I thought about Kurn Hattin, and teaching. Luckily my mother married Mike Janiszyn, when I was 7, who was also a teacher, and just like my grampy.  Mike Janiszyn became my father, instantly:  I knew he wanted me. The little boy playing on the back with me that day knew he wasn't wanted... not by his family...

That was 32 years ago.  I still remember what the boy looked like, and the feeling of the bark on my hands--how it kind of hurt to let it twist the skin--when we kept swinging like that, but I didn't want to stop.  I wanted him to keep talking to me.  I wanted him to tell me what he wanted to tell me.  I was so young, to understand that he needed to talk to me and tell me his story.

When my grampy called to me, telling me it was time to go, the little boy looked up at the tall man, smiling down at us.  "He's your grandpa?  You are lucky."

And I knew I was.  

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