A teacher learns her pupil is skipping school and tending to his little sister alone when she pays him a surprise visit. Little does she know she’s about to discover a heartbreaking truth about the boy that would change their lives forever.
Mrs. Whittaker’s heart sank that morning when she returned from the school playground. For the first time that year Jamie had opened up to her about his family.
As a teacher, Mrs. Whittaker was aware of her limitations and that it wasn’t her job to pry into her students’ lives. But little Jamie was so different. Not because she had a soft corner for him but because he was the sweetest and kindest boy in her class.
Despite being only seven, he’d never been a trouble for anyone. And he’d always been too quiet for someone his age. So that day, when she saw him in the playground with a polaroid camera, she decided to have a little talk with him. If only she knew that talk would change her life forever…
“That’s a lovely camera you got, darling,” Mrs. Whittaker remarked, and the young boy turned to face her.
“Thank you…” he said quietly. “Daddy got it for me.”
“So, have you got any pictures in there? May I look?”
Jamie shook his head. “Not yet. But I know I’ll get some pretty clicks. Daddy was a photographer, and he loved taking pictures.”
“Oh, did he? Well, I guess that’s what smart daddies do!” she said with a smile. “You know, my daddy was a literature professor, so his talents were explaining Shakespeare and Dante and all those writers to his students! Not as fun as photography, you see!”
It was then she noticed the boy’s eyes well up. “But he can’t get me anything now…” he whispered. “Daddy’s gone… He went to the angels.”
Since she’d started teaching Jamie, Mrs. Whittaker had always wondered why the boy never spoke about his family. She’d once seen his mother during the parent-teacher meeting but never got the chance to ask her if Jamie was happy at home.
After learning about his father’s death, Mrs. Whittaker’s heart sank. “You’re a brave boy, Jamie,” she told him calmly, “and I’m sure your father is telling the angels what a beautiful son he has! Isn’t that right?”
Blood is NOT always thicker than water.
Mrs. Whittaker noticed a weird sadness in Jamie’s eyes as he nodded and returned to class that morning. She stood there, watching him leave and wondering how terrible the loss must’ve been for a little heart like Jamie’s to bear.
Unfortunately, she had no idea that he was so devastated after losing his father that he couldn’t bring himself to part with his camera. He carried it everywhere he went and even skipped classes on occasion to photograph landscapes and nature.
Something similar happened one day. Jamie didn’t show up at school that day, and Mrs. Whittaker couldn’t reach his mother. She assumed Jamie was sick and would return to school soon, but that didn’t happen.
Days passed, and Mrs. Whittaker received no communication about Jamie. She tried to reach his mother, but all her calls went straight to voicemail. Mrs. Whittaker’s mind told her that she could be overthinking things and that Jamie would be back to school.
Maybe he was really sick? Maybe his mother would notice her missed calls and reach out to her?
But when that didn’t happen, something in her gut told her that the child was in danger. So, after the lessons, Mrs. Whittaker grabbed her purse, searched the school book for Jamie’s address, and decided to drive to his house.
When she arrived, she found herself on the front porch of a decent but neglected house. She rang the doorbell and looked around. The lawn needed urgent mowing, and fence pickets were missing. What was going on?
Mrs. Whittaker rang the bell again because it wasn’t answered the first time. As the door opened, she was shocked to find Jamie in the doorway, a little baby in his arms.
“Oh, dear! Jamie! Are there no elders at home?” she asked worriedly.
Jamie’s shoulders slumped. “We’re alright, Mrs. Whittaker,” he admitted glumly. “You could come later. Granny is not home…”
Mrs. Whittaker knelt to face Jamie and asked, “Where’s your mother, darling?”
She noticed Jamie’s eyes well up. “She…” he said. “She isn’t home.”
“Well then,” she said. “I’m coming in to look after you until she returns!”
Mrs. Whittaker stormed into the house, and her hands went to her mouth in shock. Half-buttered bread was lying on the kitchen counter, and toys were littered around the living room. Then she noticed the dirty milk bottles on the front table and a pram beside the couch.
The house clearly looked like it hadn’t been cleaned in days, if not weeks. And Mrs. Whittaker was slowly getting an idea why Jamie was missing from school for days.
“Would you kindly hold my sister, Camila, Mrs. Whittaker? I can make you some tea. And I’m hungry. I need to make sandwiches.”
“Well, honey, I’m not in the mood for any tea, and I suppose I can make you a sandwich instead! But you really need to tell me whether someone is watching out for you and your sister. This house appears to be in disarray to me, and your mother should be thankful no one called the cops on her!” she exclaimed. “So you sit right there on the couch and leave things up to me!”
Mrs. Whittaker buttered the bread and made juice from the oranges she found in the fruit basket. She then handed Jamie a large glass of juice and a sandwich and rocked Camila while he ate.
Suddenly, Jamie spoke up. “Granny will be home soon. Thank you.”
“Ah, well, alright,” Mrs. Whittaker replied as she looked around the house. She could see another room right beside the kitchen, and it had photographs on the walls. One of the photos was clearly visible, and she recognized it as Camila’s polaroid. She couldn’t resist asking Jamie about it.
“Are those your baby sister’s pictures in that room?” she asked, and Jamie nodded.
“I take them to track her growth. Daddy did that, too… when I was little.”
“Oh, how sweet! That’s lovely, Jamie,” said Mrs. Whittaker as she sat beside him. Then she asked, “So, is your mother away? I mean, you said your granny was looking after you.”
Jamie shook his head. “She is…” he paused.
“She is?” asked Mrs. Whittaker. “Is your mom in trouble, Jamie? You can be honest, and I—” Before Mrs. Whittaker would finish, the doorbell cut her off.
Mrs. Whittaker opened the door to see a fragile woman who looked like Jamie on the front porch. “Are you Jamie’s grandmother?” she asked, and the older woman nodded. “I’m sorry for just walking into your house like this, but you know… I mean, Jamie didn’t show up at school for days, and I was worried. I’m his teacher. Oh, please—please come in.”
Jamie’s grandmother, Rose, walked in, and her eyes welled up. “Oh God!” she cried, her weak hands pressing her lips. “What has this house become?”
Mrs. Whittaker made some tea for Rose, and it was Rose who explained why Jamie had skipped classes for days in a row.
Jamie’s mother, Stella, was a lot of things, but she wasn’t a parent. A week ago, she was on her way home from a party when her speeding car toppled, and she died. The news of losing her daughter came as a shock to Rose, and she couldn’t bear it.
She suffered a stroke and was taken to the hospital. Rose’s friend handled Stella’s funeral arrangements, but she had her own responsibilities, so she couldn’t stay back to look after Jamie and Camila.
“Nobody knows who Camila’s father is,” Rose admitted. “Oh, I know Stella was my child, but she was an awful mother! And she did a bunch of very wrong things… things no woman should do.”
Rose revealed Stella had affairs with men much younger and older than her. It must’ve been one of those men who was Camila’s father. Stella never wanted Camila but couldn’t terminate the pregnancy because of complications, and the moment she birthed Camila, she felt like she was freed.
She dumped her children on Rose and returned to her old life, partying and spending nights with men. Rose felt terrible for her grandkids, and she couldn’t bear the thought of them ending up in foster care, so she took the matter into her hands and started looking after them.
“Stella was a part of me. She was my flesh and blood,” Rose said sadly. “She was a mother, and so am I, darling. The thought of losing your child breaks you from within, and I was on the phone with this officer, and he told me my daughter was just… not coming back. Oh, how that tore me apart!”
Mrs. Whittaker placed her hand over Rose’s and revealed about her heart wrenching loss. “I get it,” she said. “I do. My husband and I lost our son two years ago, and things have never been the same ever since.”
“Oh, it just doesn’t stay the same,” Rose remarked. “All that remains is a regret and a sliver of hope that, you know, things might change?”
“Well, I may not have been in your shoes, Rose, but I understand what you’re going through,” said Mrs. Whittaker. “My husband and I tried for a child after losing our darling boy, but it wasn’t in God’s plan.”
“We went through all sorts of fertility treatments and sought advice from the best experts, but sometimes it’s just not in your stars. Listen, I’d be delighted to help you two in any way I can,” she said. “Jamie has been a wonderful child, and I can’t see him missing out on his childhood.”
“That little child has been through a lot,” Rose admitted, looking at Jamie, who was eating at the kitchen table. “I spoke to him when I was in the hospital, and that child… he cried and told me he wanted me home. I was only discharged today, and you see, he’s been watching after Camila, and I know he’s doing things that a seven-year-old wouldn’t do.”
“But he never had a choice. I continually taught him things that school didn’t since his life was so different from the other children. Stella was not there for him; his father had long left him. I was there, but I was mostly sick. And I could barely help my grandson around.”
“Well then, Rose, let’s change that,” Mrs. Whittaker said encouragingly. “I’d love to help this sweet little family, especially Jamie…”
It was difficult to imagine a life harder than Jamie’s, thought Mrs. Whittaker as she drove back home that day. She told her husband everything, and he was shocked that a young boy like Jamie was looking after his sister alone.
So the kind couple decided to pitch in and help Jamie and his family as much as they could, and they did that. While Mrs. Whittaker helped Rose look after Jamie and Camila, Mr. Whittaker came up with exciting picnics, hiking, sightseeing, and trips for the family.
Within months, it felt like the Whittakers were the family Jamie and Camila never had. But that’s where things only began turning beautiful for the two families.
On Mrs. Whittaker’s birthday, Jamie gifted her a photo album with the photos he took with his camera every time they went out together. The pictures were beautiful. They were smiling and laughing and doing crazy things that families do.
Tears sprang from Mrs. Whittaker’s eyes when she found a little message behind one of the polaroids.
“- Camila, Me, and Mrs. Whittaker. She’s like our new mommy!”
It was God’s sign, Mrs. Whittaker thought. Perhaps her meeting Jamie had always been God’s intention, and she only realized it now.
So Mr. and Mrs. Whittaker had a serious discussion, after which they decided to adopt Jamie and Camila. Hesitantly, they proposed the idea to Rose, who burst into tears and gently pressed the Whittakers’ palms in her hands.
“I always wondered what would happen to my beautiful grandbabies if God called me home,” Rose confessed. “Oh dear, I fought with God sometimes, begging for answers. I think I won today. I couldn’t have asked Him for more. My grandbabies would be safe with you. That’s all I want.”
Years later, Rose passed away, and the Whittakers had adopted Jamie and Camila by then. When Jamie grew up, he followed in his late father’s footsteps and became a renowned photographer. And some of the magical shots he took of Mrs. Whittaker cradling Camila and Camila’s tiny feet taking shape over time earned him praise and recognition he could only dream of.
What can we learn from this story?
Blood is NOT always thicker than water. While Stella lived a frivolous life, leaving her lovely babies home, Mrs. Whittaker felt it was her responsibility to save the two kids from their miserable life.
Family is much more about love and caring than biology. The Whittakers adopted Camila and Jamie and became loving parents to them.
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