green tree photo

( Intermediate Level )

Can you imagine searching your family tree to discover your branch was broken? Does the trail just stop? You are not connected to anyone? Or are you?

Recently, Ryan’s history teacher assigned the students to illustrate their family tree. “The world is a big soup pot. Let’s see how many families originated in another country, and when or if they emigrated here.”

Try to go back as far as you can. Tell us the colors of eyes and hair in your family. Who looks like who. It will be fun to hear your stories!”

Ryan was very excited. He knew his family tree would be immense since he had such a large family. He wanted to use the largest paper he could find to make his tree.

To impress his teacher, he drew a large tree with roots running deep into the earth, signifying the strength of his family.

Both his parents had four siblings each, who married and had children, and as far as he could count, providing he hadn’t forgotten anyone, he had twenty-seven cousins.

He had a few days to complete this assignment so he took his time. He did as much as he could with the information he knew then asked his mom for help with the rest.

Ryan found his mom cooking dinner for the family. His sister was doing her homework at the table and his brother had finished his. He was in the living room watching television.

Mom, I will need your help filling in areas on our family tree. When you have time, can you help?”

Mary was a bit hesitant in answering. She looked at him then quickly looked away, pretending she had to keep her eyes on what she was doing.

“Yes, of course. Tonight I still have a few things still to do so how about tomorrow, after dinner? After your dad comes home. What I cannot remember he may remember.”

“Sure. It is not due until Friday so I have another two days. Thanks.” He turned and headed into the living room to watch TV with his brother.

Mary was deep in her thoughts that she hadn’t heard Bob come home. She knew this day would come eventually. She and her husband never told Ryan he was adopted.

They felt at the time it would be easier for him to understand what adoption meant when he was older.

When Mary and Bob married and wanted to start a family they had difficulties. The doctors told them that Mary had only one ovary producing eggs so the likelihood of getting pregnant decreased dramatically.

After four years of trying and wanting a family, they adopted Ryan. He brought so much joy to their life. To Mary’s surprise, she did get pregnant two years after the adoption of Ryan and then again after one year.

All the children were treated the same. It never made a difference to either of them that one had been adopted. Ryan was theirs just as much as their biological children.

After the children went to bed, Mary spoke to Bob about the class project. He sat there listening to Mary’s concerns. “Maybe we should have told him earlier,” she told Bob.

“Mary, Ryan is a smart boy. He knows we love him and so does his brother and sister. I think he will be fine. We never showed any favoritism between them. So tomorrow after dinner, we will sit down with him and help him with his class project and explain why we cannot fill in some areas of his tree.”

That night Mary barely slept. She was worried that her son would be crushed. Finding out his family is not really his family. Would he hate her for not telling him sooner?

The children headed to school on the bus. Bob was about to leave and he turned to Mary, “Honey, it will be ok. Promise. I know you didn’t get much sleep last night so try to rest today. I will be home tonight as quickly as I can and we will sit down together to speak with Ryan.”

The day passed quickly and the children were home. “We are going to have an early dinner tonight. Your dad and I will help Ryan with his project. Don’t eat too many snacks and spoil your dinner.”

Dinner was uneventful as the children had other ideas on their minds. Ryan’s mind was on finishing his class project whereas his siblings had finished their homework and could watch television.

Mom cleared the table and put away the leftovers while Ryan went to his room to gather his project. Mary took a deep breath and looked at her husband.

Ryan came running into the kitchen and set his colored pencils and his neatly rolled-up project. He unrolled his masterpiece and held the four ends down with clean coffee mugs.

“Here it is!” showing his work to his parents. ” He looked up at his dad and said, “Dad who in our family has red hair and hazel eyes like me? I remember many names and filled in many areas but no one has my colored hair. I don’t think anyone on Mom’s side has red hair. “

Bob looked up at Mary and saw she was upset so he began,” Well Ryan, you are the only one in our family who has red hair and those beautiful hazel eyes. you are unique in this respect.” He smiled at Ryan as he spoke.

Bob sat down next to Ryan knowing his son was excited to get his project done before its due date tomorrow. He put his arm around Ryan as he began to talk.

“Ryan, Mommy, and I wanted to have children and start our family. For some reason we had trouble. So, we decided after a few years to go to a special place where we found you.”

Ryan was confused at this point. He looked at his mom. “A special place? What does this mean? I do not understand.”

Mary, who had stood quietly while her husband tried to explain now spoke up,” Your dad and I love you very much. You are our son from the first moment we held you. You didn’t come from my belly like your brother or sister but you are our son.”

Ryan remembered a movie he watched and said, “Am I adopted?” Mary looked at her son then to Bob, “Yes.” Those words sent a shudder through Mary. She never thought of Ryan as that. He was her son.

Their son quietly sat there absorbing everything that was said. He looked up and smiled. “I remember my science teacher explaining this before. Grafting he called it. This helps the new tree grow faster and develop more quickly.”

“Many farmers use this trick to have the best quality trees on their farms. I guess this is how I became part of your family. I was grafted onto your family tree.”

Mary sat down next to her son and slid her arm around his shoulders. “Yes, I believe you made our family better Ryan.”

Bob glanced at his wife as he sat down at the table across from the two. Mary looked up and he mouthed the words, “I told you.”

As Ryan looked at his project on the table he wanted to show his branch of the tree as being something special and unique.

He began to split one branch and show how he became part of the family. He knew once he gave his presentation to the class he would have to explain what adoption is.

With the help of his parents, his masterpiece was complete. Including his grafted limb. He took the news of himself being adopted well.

Ryan couldn’t wait to share this newly found information with his classmates. To know how special he was and how grateful he is to be part of this family.

Written by: Angel

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illustrate – verb: explain or make (something) clear by using examples, charts, or pictures

originated – verb:  specified beginning

emigrated – verb: leave one’s own country in order to settle permanently in another

immense – adjective: extremely large

signifying – verb: indicating

assignment – noun: a task or piece of work assigned to someone

hesitant – adjective: tentative, unsure, or slow in acting or speaking

pretending – verb: speak and act so as to make it appear that something is true when in fact it is not

deep in her thoughts – adjective: preoccupied by thoughts, thinking very hard

adopted – verb: legally take (another’s child) and bring it up as one’s own

likelihood – noun:  probability

dramatically – adverb: in a way that relates to drama 

biological – adjective: genetically related; related by blood

favoritism – noun: unfair preferential treatment

spoil your dinner – idiom: eating snacks or food before an actual meal

uneventful – adjective: not interesting or exciting

leftovers – noun: something, especially food, remaining after the rest has been used or consumed

unique – adjective: one of a kind

confused – adjective: unable to think clearly or understand

shudder– verb: tremble

absorbing – adjective: intensely interesting; engrossing

grafting – verb: insert (a shoot or twig) as a graft

glanced – verb: take a brief or hurried look

mouthed – verb: saying something in a whisper or no voice

presentation – noun: a speech or talk in which a piece of work is shown and explained to an audience

masterpiece – noun: exceptional art or work

Question ( s ):

Do you know anyone who is adopted?

If so, did they know at an early age?

Do you think it was a good idea to keep the information of adoption from Ryan for so long? Or should his parents have told him?

Why not me?

( Intermediate level )

Isabella always stood at the fence and wondered, “Why not me?.” The other, much younger children, would find their forever homes, but not her. She would stand, for hours, waiting for someone to look at her and pick her.

Isabella has lived at the orphanage for close to two years now. Her mom was a single mom who, routinely, found herself in trouble with the law.

The court system, finally, had taken Isabella away from this dangerous situation, severed parental rights, and placed her in the orphanage.

Normally, the courts would place a child with a relative. In Isabella’s case, she only had her elderly grandparents. This would not be an ideal situation as growing children are so active.

Now, at six years old, Isabella had understood a lot of things. Miss Emma, the head of the orphanage, would tell her that, “Mommy had sent you to live here. She knew you would be safe and have plenty of friends.”

“One day, when you get much older, you may see your mommy again.” Miss Emma knew, in the back of her mind, there may be a chance that Isabella’s mom would try to find her, once Isabella reached adulthood. Until then, her mom was ordered by the courts not to contact Isabella.

Isabella was quite fond of Miss Emma. She would spend much of her day following her around. Emma would tell Isabella she was her little shadow.

It hadn’t been long ago that Isabella realized the orphanage belonged to Miss Emma. The Desert Rose Orphanage, was founded about eight years ago by her.

She named it after the rose – shaped crystal rocks found scattered throughout the desert. She felt the crystals were like the children, beautiful, unique, and resilient to life. Each is different from the other but still, needs a place to show their beauty and grow.

Miss Emma never married nor had children. Having the orphanage was her way of having children in her life. She mentioned to Isabella,” Every child needs to feel loved and wanted. I can provide this. They will have food, a warm bed, and plenty of love.”

Isabella asked Miss Emma, “Why do the younger kids get their forever homes and some, like me, get overlooked?” Miss Emma quickly responded, “The older children will get very special forever homes with very special mommies and daddies.

“You are not overlooked. It just takes a little longer to find that perfect match. Have patience, little one. Good things come to those who wait.” She smiled at Isabella. “Now, you run off and play. Lunch will be in an hour.”

As Isabella ran off to play, Miss Emma thought to herself, “That Isabella is such a curious one. She will make a childless couple very happy, one day.”

The school will be starting in just about a month. With twelve children at the orphanage, Miss Emma had a lot of preparation ahead. A few new children had arrived and a few were at school age, including Isabella.

She worked on a limited budget consisting of donations. Some of the community members would donate backpacks, paper, pencils, and crayons. She would need to get school clothes for a few of them, mend the ones she could and worry about shoes.

The boys seemed to grow faster than the girls and usually outgrew everything so quickly. Many of the merchants in town usually gave her a discount knowing she could afford much.

Whenever Miss Emma traveled into town one of the town’s women would come and stay at the orphanage for a few hours. This allowed her to go into town once or twice a month to buy the needed things. She had made arrangements to have someone come on Saturday. This would free her to go shopping for school items for her children.

On this particular day, Isabella wanted to tag along with her to town. Miss Emma didn’t mind and told her she could come as long as she behaved. She didn’t have to remind Isabella to be good. She was always a wonderful companion and remembered her manners.

They arrived at the discount store where you could buy anything from furniture to clothing to tools. They headed right to the clothing section.

Right away, Isabella spotted a red dress with ruffles around the waist. She saw tiny pearls sewn around the collar and a huge lace bow on the back.

Isabella brushed her hand along the ruffles and thought this was so beautiful. She looked up to see Miss Emma looking at her with a smile on her face, “This is a dress for a princess, isn’t it, Miss Emma?”

You, Isabella, are the perfect little princess for that dress but you know we are here for school clothes. We have to focus on this task.” She saw the disappointment on Isabella’s face.

Isabella, soon, became interested in talking to the shopkeeper’s daughter that she had forgotten about the princess dress. Miss Emma wished she had the extra to buy this dress for Isabella.

All the children had enough clothes to start school now. Miss Emma had enough left, after buying clothes, for one pair of shoes. Of course, she thought of Johnny. He was in dire need of new shoes. The sole of his left shoe had worn so thin that tiny rocks made their way inside the shoe.

The school year began without any issues. Isabella would come home every day telling Miss Emma what she had learned. Each of the children, also, vied for her attention. Everyone wanted to tell her what they did at school.

It usually took her thirty minutes or more to settle them down so they could eat dinner. With twelve children to feed, some needing help with homework and baths, the night had just begun for Miss Emma.

As Miss Emma brushed Isabella’s hair out after her bath she asked Isabella, ” You were quiet tonight at dinner. Is something bothering you?”

Isabella sat quietly for a moment and said, “Janie said today that she and her mom are going on a trip this weekend to see her grandma. She is always telling the class what she and her mom do

Miss Emma had stopped brushing Isabella’s hair and continued listening,” I wish I had a mommy to do special things with me too.”

Miss Emma just smiled and said, ” Remember, good things come to those who wait. One day, when you least expect it, you will have what you always dreamed of .” She tucked Isabella into bed and kissed her good night. She turned off the light and told her,” Good night my little one.

The school year continued. The children were enjoying seeing their teachers and the other children. Miss Emma kept hearing those words, “I wish I had a mommy too….”

Thanksgiving had come and gone. Many members of the community provided special holiday dishes to the orphanage. The children had eaten so much food.

Now the children were looking forward to Christmas and most of all school break. Three wonderful weeks to enjoy playing and no homework!

Emma never went overboard, on Christmas, for the children. There would be plenty of gifts from the community but she always wanted them to have something very special from just her.

Emma had picked out her Christmas presents for each of the children except for Isabella. She had a difficult time deciding what to get her. As fond as Isabella was of her, Miss Emma, too, loved this little one. She, definitely, held a special place in her heart.

A multitude of donated presents was dropped off at the orphanage and placed underneath the Christmas tree. The children checked for their names on all the boxes. Squealing each time, “This one has my name on it!”

One name was not there on any of the gifts. Isabella’s name. She had noticed this but she hadn’t said a word to anyone, not even to Miss Emma. She knew she was a good girl and Santa would surely know this. She remembered Santa only had gifts for the good little boys and girls.

Christmas morning finally came and the children were up earlier than usual. Anticipation in the air was high. Each wants to open their presents and play with the new toys.

Miss Emma woke to the children’s giggles at her bedroom door. “It is time to get up! It’s time for us to open our gifts!” Miss Emma smiled and told them,” I will be there in a moment.”

Emma got up and washed her face and brushed her hair. She tightened the belt of her robe and walked to the closet. Inside her closet was a box wrapped in bright red paper and a white bow on top. Inside was the princess dress Isabella had fallen in love with.

She placed the box on her bed and went to her dresser. She pulled out a white business envelope that had Isabella’s name on it. She placed this envelope on the gift and smiled. She turned and walked downstairs.

Miss Emma saw the children sitting around the Christmas tree. Their eyes looked at the gifts and then to her. “Go ahead, open your gifts,” she said. In an instant, the children ripped off the bows and papers. Laughter filled the room.

Isabella shared in the excitement. Watching the others open their gifts. They still had no idea there wasn’t a present for her under the tree.

After the morning’s excitement, the children headed to the kitchen where Miss Emma prepared oatmeal with blueberries and a sprinkling of brown sugar on top.

The children were eating as fast as they could. Each wants to get back to playing with their new toys. Miss Emma looked around the table. Looking at all the huge smiles of the children until she saw Isabella.

She was quietly eating. Staring into her bowl of oatmeal. She wasn’t sharing in the excitement of the others now. She was lost in her own thoughts.

Miss Emma cleared her voice, “Isabella could you do me a favor? Seems I forgot my reading glasses upstairs in the bedroom. Can you go get them for me? I have to read all these Christmas cards from our friends and neighbors,” She pointed to the pile of cards on the counter.

Isabella pushed her chair away from the table and headed to Miss Emma’s bedroom. A few moments later, Miss Emma followed. She wanted Isabella to arrive in her bedroom and discover the present and envelope on her bed.

When she arrived at her door she saw Isabella staring at the paper from the envelope. Isabella didn’t understand everything that was written on the paper but she saw the word adoption and saw Miss Emma’s name.

Miss Emma stood quietly for a moment then walked towards her. “Well my little one, would you want me to be your forever mommy and this is your forever home”?

Isabella turned and hugged Miss Emma. Tears ran down both of her cheeks. The community had helped Emma with recommendation letters, a lawyer, and money for filing fees for the adoption of Isabella.

The beautiful wrapped present with the huge white bow was left untouched. Isabella felt she had received the best gift of all. Someone to call mommy and a forever home. “Good things do come to those who wait,” as Miss Emma always told her.

Written by: Angel

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orphanage – noun: a home for orphaned children

parental rights – adjective: refers to parents’ rights and responsibilities

elderly – adjective: old or aging

in the back of her mind – idiom: part of one’s mind, thoughts and memories are kept but that are not thought about

fond – adjective: affection or liking

founded – verb: established

resilient – adjective: withstand or recover quickly 

overlooked – verb: fail to notice something or someone

childless– adjective: not having children

consisting – verb: be made up of

mend – verb: repair

tag along – phrasal verb: follow another’s lead 

discount – noun: a decrease from the usual cost 

ruffles – noun: a strip of lace gathered along one edge of a garment

dire – adjective: serious or urgent

vied – verb: compete with someone

overboard – verb: to do something excessive  

multitude – noun: large numbers 

squealing – verb: make a long, high-pitched noise

anticipation in the air – collocation: excitement about something 

giggles – verb: laugh in a silly manner

dresser – noun: chest of drawers for the bedroom

adoption – noun: the act of taking a child as your own

untouched – adjective: not used or touched


Are there any orphanages’ in your city?

Have you donated any old or unused clothing?