I just finished a book by a local author, Joe Bullick, titled “Put a Tent Over the Circus.” I learned about this book through the Catholic Charities newsletter (page 7). The book is a true story about a boy’s journey as a foster child during the Great Depression — and sounded like a wonderful read for me — because I considered adoption and/or fostering a child. I also loved the fact that it was written about Joe’s life as a child from Joe’s point of view. I think first person accounts of periods throughout history are so much more real than the way history actually portrays it. Things are romanticized and remembered so fondly — and that’s how it should be.
So, I called the number in the newsletter and the phone was answered by an older woman, “Hello?” I asked for Joe — I’m sure she wondered who the heck I was, but never asked. I really did call his home phone — I don’t know what I expected, but I didn’t expect that. Then I heard her running through the house, “Joe… JOOOOOOOE! Joe, it’s the phone, it’s for you.” It took a couple more minutes and he answered the phone, “Yea, this is Joe,” a sweet old man. I explained to him that I read about his book in the Catholic Charities newsletter and wanted to get copy — was it sold anywhere or could he mail it? He was so pleased to hear that I was genuinely interested in his book and that I read about it in the newsletter. He went on to tell me how much Catholic Charities meant to him — and why he gives back to them. He then asked all about me and where I lived and worked — and he met me in the parking lot at Bob Evans in Cranberry after work that night. Talk about customer service! He wanted to sign a copy and hand deliver it.
At Bob Evans, he was easy to spot, standing outside his white truck. I pulled in next to him, and he knew I was the one he was meeting. We made introductions and then he handed me the book and said, “Now that’s a picture of me on the front of the book. I was five years old that day. All I had was that suitcase and was taken to the home of my new foster family. I don’t look scared there, but I was that day,” he said. I told him that I couldn’t wait to read his story, and that I couldn’t believe he made the 25 minute trip to Cranberry during rush hour. He laughed — such a sweet man — and said that he wanted to “get out of the house.” He didn’t mind coming to meet me at all. And then we said our goodbyes and he grinned, telling me he was getting his wife a soup inside the restaurant. I smiled as I drove back into traffic. Just so unbelievably sweet — I imagined they’re one of those old couples you see that still hold hands when they go out together.
I loved so much about this book. Joe or Joey (as he is referred to in the book) has wonderful memories of the way things were during the great depression — and throughout his entire childhood. It’s really focused during one part of his life where he struggles as a little boy with two mothers — not fully understanding why things were happening the way they did in his life. It really shows the resilience of the human spirit and how love can make all the difference. I loved his storytelling.
Joey was so fortunate to have a mother that loved him so much. She knew that it was best for him to be raised in a foster family — one that could provide a much better life for him than she could — just the basics in life, nothing extravagant. As a single mother, she turned to Catholic Charities to help her find a suitable family. She selected the Fitzpatrick’s — a couple who couldn’t have their own children — and were very much dedicated to the Catholic faith, promising to raise Joey as a Catholic. She was an integral part of the arrangement — it was an open fostering situation, meaning that she had regular communication with the Fitzpatrick’s and they with her. She often had Joey at her apartment in the Northside of Pittsburgh on the weekends and he spent the week with the Fitzpatrick’s, going to school in the North Hills.
Joey had fond memories and recollections of the apartment near Allegheny General Hospital — the sirens he would hear or the rain on his window. He often compared the oil lamps that burned all night with the complete darkness of the Fitzpatrick’s home in the country. He talked about Uncle Harry’s blacksmith shop (Harry Fitzpatrick, his foster dad) — about the smells, sounds, the fears he had of the horses and the things he learned about life. He talked about his Mummy Fitzpatrick and the wonderful bread she made in the kitchen. His stories were absolutely heartwarming.
Joe is a great storyteller, simply telling the memories that make up who Joe Bullick is today. And as you read the book, you can clearly see God’s hand leading little Joey through his journey. And, while he faces tragedy throughout his life at a young age — I believe those things were part of Joey’s path in this life and without them — his life would have been very different. He questions many things in the book, but the answer is so simple — he couldn’t get to B without A.
This story shows that each of us has path to follow. Each of us suffers tragedies in our lives and how we handle that is what makes us who we are today. It’s an inspiring story of hope, love and true faith.
Always B E L I E V E !
Joe included loose sheet poem in my book that says…
Legacy of an Adopted Child
Once there were two women
Who never knew each other;
One you do not remember,
the other you call mother.
One gave you a nationality,
The other gave you a name;
One gave you the seed of talent,
The other gave you an aim.
Two different lives shaped
To make yours one;
One became your guiding star,
The other became your sun.
One gave you emotions,
The other calmed your fears;
One saw your first sweet smile,
The other dried your tears.
The first gave you life and
The second taught you to live it;
The first gave you a need for love,
And the second was there to give it.
One gave you up,
It was all that she could do;
The other prayed for a child,
And God led her straight to you.
And now you ask me through your tears
The age-old questions through the years:
Heredity or environment: What are you the product of?
Neither, my darling, neither — Just two different kinds of love.