Posted Monday, September 26th, 2005
The woman from Child Protection Services, who had just been assigned this case, noted that the house was clean, almost abnormally so. Perhaps they had spiffed up to ready for her visit. She checked her records. Cindy was almost eighteen.
The sofa and all the chairs had fluffy pillows with elaborate embroidery and needlepoint floral designs. "Lovely," she murmured.
"I do them for fun after I finish my homework and chores." Cindy's blue eyes sparkled at the compliment.
Children ought to have household responsibilities, thought the woman from CPS. "You and the other girls help out around the house. That's nice…"
"No, ma'am, Lucy and Clara don't do housework. It's not good for them." Cindy shook her head, her short blonde ponytail bouncing.
"I'm sorry they're ill."
"It's just that they have real sensitive skin. Cleaning would ruin their manicures and make their skin yucky. They'd wear gloves, but they have a latex allergy that makes them break out something awful."
"They're frail and have to rest a lot. They're not strong like me," Cindy said.
"Your stepfather said the girls were decorating the gym. He suggested I wait here for you. He seemed in a big hurry to leave."
"He went to pick up some things for the after prom party we're having tonight. I'll have a lot to do when he gets back—flower arranging, decorating, making cookies and sandwiches," Cindy said with pride.
The woman thought she heard a wistful note. "How are you going to do all that and go to the Prom?
A shadow passed across Cindy's face. "I'm not going. I don't have a dress or shoes. My allowance, well, it goes for my regular clothes." she said, with a gesture at her no-name sneakers.
"You didn't want an after-school job?"
"I don't have time, not with homework and cooking dinner and keeping up with chores. You know, laundry, cleaning… The floors get much cleaner when you get on your hands and knees. I like things to sparkle."
Dear me, poor thing, the woman from CPS thought. She opened Cindy's folder and skimmed through the previous visits. She found a longer observation, which she read: "Cindy Ella is a seventeen-year-old, Caucasian female, with a pleasant demeanor and a neat and clean appearance. She dresses modestly. Cindy does well-enough in school, carrying a B+ average in the business track. She expresses no desire to go to college or pursue any education past high school.
"Her extensive personality tests show that she suffers from several psychological disorders including mild agoraphobia, and is unwilling to venture far from the home.
"Her tests also indicate an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, which seems to be worsening and ought to be watched, with possible future assignment to a psychiatrist for evaluation as a candidate for therapy and use of psychotropic medication such as Prozac, which has proved useful in such cases. The OCD manifiests in the client's pre-occupation with housework, and an apparent inability to tolerate anything less than perfection, both in orderliness of her surroundings and what she calls, "wanting things to sparkle."
"Furthermore, she seems to exhibit traits of social anxiety, and appears to have no desire to have friends outside the family, to participate in after school activities or to have a job. For example, she refuses to attend any of the school dances, and instead invents excuses of having to stay home to prepare party food although she will not participate in the party, except occasionally to serve the food. Being behind a table or holding a tray seems to alleviate her anxiety as it relieves her from the responsibility of significant interaction with her peers. Perhaps Paxil would relieve her social anxiety. However, it is not clear whether the social anxiety is real or a by-product of her OCD and consequent pre-occupation with housework or whether it is another manifestation of agoraphobia.
"Her home placement is appropriate. She is in a close-knit family, with two other girls near to her in age. The family seems to tolerate her aberrations and they have accommodated to her pathology. They allow her to exercise self-determination in her household activities, putting up with her almost continual pillow-fluffing, floor scrubbing and other cleaning activities. The family eats whatever she cooks, although Cindy's talents do not appear to be culinary in nature.
"Cindy Ella is a troubled young woman, whose demeanor is disarming. The careless caseworker might easily misinterpret Cindy's role in the household and wrongly see her as a victim. Cindy unconsciously encourages such a view."
The woman from CPS looked at Cindy again. Strange, she thought, she seemed so normal at first. I almost felt sorry for her. Shows how first impressions can be so wrong. I'm sure I'll get better at this when I have more experience, she thought. And I'd better make sure to read the whole case folder before I make my home visits.
Comments [post a comment]
Posted by Patricia Parkinson on Monday, September 26th, 2005 at 4:09 PM
Oh Miriam, the modern day Cinderella, very clever and nicely done, I love it, I wonder if your Cindy will go to the prom after all. Thanks Miriam xo
Posted by Gerard C. Smith on Monday, September 26th, 2005 at 4:27 PM
I always knew there was something wrong with Cindy. Great story. I love it.
Posted by Gina Roke on Friday, November 11th, 2005 at 11:40 AM
Fascinating. Perception is everything.