Christmas in the Mountains

Photo: Amy and just a few members of her family

By Amy Bell

My children cling tightly to our holiday tradition of visiting my parents’ house in the national forest. This beautiful home is surrounded by miles of open space to explore, rocks to climb and animals to watch. Over the years I have shared this hideaway with many people. The memories cover the course of a lifetime from my teenage to soccer mom years, bringing vans full of young people for an escape to the mountains. The memories are rich and cover generations.

As a foster family, everything is built around the circumstances of the “placement.” Our first sibling group was with us until a week before Christmas. We loved them deeply as little pieces of our family and were dreading the terrible job of reconciling the joy of Christmas with the heartache of goodbye. My parents had fully embraced these kids and said goodbye with personalized stockings and a menagerie of toys that were to be packed and shipped to a grandma who was as unknown to us as she was to them, several states away.

The fact that we had to fabricate Christmas a week early in order to give our babies a holiday before we sent them off in an airplane made it bittersweet. Yet we gave them the best Christmas we could muster before driving them down to await their 3:00 a.m. flight. Saying goodbye forever to children you love completely cannot be summed up in words.

We laughed as much as we could in those last 24 hours. We swam in the pool (The two-year-old finally overcoming his fear of water just before closing time.) We drank hotel hot chocolate, watched a movie and tried to get a few hours of sleep knowing our hearts were going to fly apart in a few hours.

When the time came we dragged those babies out of bed without really being able to explain what was going on to children who were too little to understand. We took them out into the freezing night and strapped them into the car seats in the caseworker’s car. We hugged them, told them everything was going to be OK and that we loved them. We tried to be strong as we watched them drive away forever. We simply had no choice but to trust it was right.

When they were out of sight, my daughter and I went back to our room and sobbed until the sun rose. We loved them THAT much! On Christmas day we talked to our babies and we sobbed again. They were happy, they were with family, but in our four-year-olds’ words he missed us “too much.” We also missed them “too much.”

The following Christmas I finally received an email from the Grandma of our four babies along with a beautiful picture of her family. They look so happy and she tells me that they are all doing very well. In spite of the trauma, they survived. Without this goodbye, we would never have met the next three children who would move into our hearts. This upcoming holiday will mark our second Christmas spent with them and it sounds like they will be a part of every Christmas to come. They ask me almost weekly why we haven’t been to the mountains for a while. Life…my babies…life….but Christmas is coming!


Amy is a Colorado foster parent. She is certified by Courage Community Foster Care.

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