As part of my pre-trial preparations, I’ve had to go through pictures of the past 20 years. My attorney decided he wanted to prepare a photo montage of the girls showing their lives. I went a step further, and provided not only pictures, but also personal items, like Jessica’s graduation cap and her acceptance letter to SIUE, Kelli’s cheerleading poms and artwork she drew. I included their funeral visitation books to show that over 1,000 people filed through that funeral home to pay their respects.
As I was going through the pictures, I relived so many days – ones I remembered clearly and ones that made me say “oh yeah, I forgot about that.” I found pictures that made me laugh, ones that hurt my heart, and ones that made me cry.
One of my favorite stories stems from this: Maddy was getting ready to start kindergarten, and Kelli was getting ready to start intermediate school (5th and 6th grade). Maddy would be attending the same school that Kelli had for the past three years. It was a small school, with only one class per grade, so everyone knew each other.
Maddy was nervous about starting school, and Kelli was nervous about attending her new school. She would be leaving a familiar place where she knew everyone to attend a larger school where she wouldn’t know most of the kids in her class.
Their daycare provider, Becky, arranged for a tour of the schools. They started at the elementary school, where Kelli played big sister to Maddy and showed her the kindergarten class room, the lunch room , the play are where she would have recess, and the office. Kelli told Maddy that the secretary, Ms. Jayne, was nice but she better only go to the office if the teacher sent her, otherwise she better not get into trouble. Apparently her advice stuck with Maddy, because she never got sent to the principal's office.
Then they headed to the intermediate center. The elementary school could probably fit into the gym and lunch room of this place, that’s the size difference Kelli was facing. Becky told me later that Kelli was scared, but she wasn’t letting it show. She didn’t want Maddy to be scared.
As they toured the school, empty but for the custodians, the kids decided to run in the halls. Of course, Maddy managed to find a small puddle of water and slipped and fell, getting her behind all wet. She began to cry, not so much hurt but embarrassed. Kelli picked her up, dusted her off, and said “Maddy, don’t cry, Becky will take you for ice cream and you will be fine.”
Although it seems like they fought and screamed and yelled and beat each other ALL THE TIME, they did love each other and did care for one another. As I went through the pictures, I found so many of them where they were hugging each other and smiling. And it wasn’t a smile of “act happy, mom is looking.” It is genuine love and happiness.