Very occasionally, attempts were made to adopt a child from the home. There was nothing subtle about the process, no preparation, no planning involved. Towards the end of 1959, a lady wearing a tightly fitting tartan skirt and brown jumper suddenly appeared at Rose Hill one Saturday afternoon. She looked very prim and proper. Her face was small and thin. The black horn rimmed glasses balanced on the bridge of her nose were far too big for her face. Nobody told me her name or that she wanted to adopt me.
One moment, I was in the home, surrounded by familiar faces. A short time later, I sat in her comfortably furnished house. It was somewhere in a well off area of Aberdeen. I was playing in front of a warm fire. The silence was broken only by the sharp crackling sound of burning coal. Flames sputtered and danced in the hearth. Now and again, tiny fragments of coal shot out the fire and bounced against the metal fireguard. The lady watched me, intently. Her husband sat quietly in the corner.
She suddenly produced a doll and gave it to me. It was the first doll I ever had and I was delighted. I touched the doll's perfect face and explored underneath the green matinee jacket and woolen leggings. The lady seemed pleased by my reaction. A smile crossed her face.
"What name would you like to call her?", she asked.
A name poped into my head.
"Susan", I replied.
The doll became my baby. I cradled her in my arms and told her off for being naughty.
"Naughty Susan. You're a bad baby", I said, over and over.
As I sat on the livingroom carpet, lost in an imaginary world, the back of my head felt itchy. I scratched it. My hair felt warm from the heat of the fire. The lady stopped smiling. She stared at me, wide eyed, panic written all over her face. Then she moved behind me, slowly, deliberately, and lifted a strand of hair on my head. Her jaw dropped. She let out a shrill shriek.
The strand of hair slipped from her fingers. She stumbled backwards, as if unable to comprehend the enormity of what she'd just seen. But they were there, lots of them, small obscene little creatures, growing more grotesque and threatening with every passing second. The lady wiped her fingers on her skirt, then turned around in small tight circles, flapping her arms, not knowing what to do next.
"You filthy dirty kid!", she hissed.
She was angry at me and I didn't understand why. I pulled away, trying to smile sweetly. The doll fell from my hand, never to be picked up again. The lady turned on her startled husband and screamed out.
"Get her coat on. She's going back!"
He meekly obeyed and grabbed my arm roughly and slipped on my coat. Seconds later, I was out the house and in the car. Within the hour, I was back at the home again and put straight into bed. When I awoke the next morning, my white pillowcase was crawling with head lice. Of course, I didn’t realise what they were. To me, they were just some new playmates, to prod and poke and have fun with. I begged the staff not to take them away. Later on that day, my long wavy hair was cut to within an inch of my scalp.
Over the years, I've often wondered about the lady and the life I might have had. She was looking for perfection. Instead, she found imperfection, damaged goods. I realised I was simply a doll, just like Susan. The lady never returned to the home.