Sometimes it’s difficult to understand the effects that multiple placements have on children. Many children also have trouble expressing their feelings to caregivers. Below is a therapeutic story designed to help children and parents understand and express the feelings that arise from multiple placements. This story was obtained from the curriculum of The Institute for Human Services of Ohio.
The Suitcase Story:
Once there was a suitcase. It had been so many places it was covered with stickers. There were so many address labels on the suitcase that it wasn’t sure which address label was right. This made the suitcase very scared because it thought it might get lost. The suitcase remembered that once it was brown with brass trim around its lid. When it looked in the mirror it could tell that it still looked like that. The problem was that more and more this suitcase was collecting address labels and stickers. After a while, the suitcase figured, all of its brown leather would be covered. Then it would forget what color it used to be. This bothered it.
Another thing that bothered it was the people who carried it around. Sometimes they left the suitcase in the rain. This wasn’t done on purpose. The day would be clear and sunny when it was left. Later, clouds would gather, and rain would start. The person who left the suitcase would come back and dry it off, but it took a long time to really dry, and its brass trim would have started to rust.
Another problem was that someone put it down really hard, and it hurt. Once a lady tore off an old address label and put on a new one. She tore it off so fast that it hurt too. Then she stuck the new one on top of the old glue without cleaning off the old glue. Because she hadn’t cleaned off the old glue, the new label didn’t stick. One day the suitcase got really mad and decided to get even. It waited until it was all packed and closed. And then, as the lady was carrying it, the suitcase opened up. All the lady’s baggage fell out. Boy, was the lady mad! It took her a long time to put everything back. And then, the suitcase just fell open again.
For awhile, the suitcase was glad it had gotten even. It even thought of more ways to make trouble. It planned ways to make its handle fall off, and waited until it was sure it would land on a person’s toes. The suitcase would wait until it was all packed. That way it was heavy, so that when it fell on the person’s toes, it would hurt. It got even for that time when the address label got ripped off too fast. After awhile people didn’t trust the suitcase. They tied it together with rope so it couldn’t fall open. The rope didn’t feel good. It made the suitcase madder. With the rope tied around it, no one could see the suitcase’s brass trim. It looked ugly, with rope all around it. It didn’t like it. The suitcase liked it better when people told it how shiny its trim was and how nice its brown leather was. Then it would remember the times it got left in the rain and the times it got dropped. When it remembered those things, it got mad again. The mad made the sad go away.
Time passed, and the suitcase moved some more. Every time it fell on someone’s toes or let all of its baggage fall out, its owner would sell the suitcase. It got more labels and more stickers. It also got some dents in its brass trim and some scratches on its leather. The suitcase couldn’t remember when it was new.
Finally an unusual thing happened. A person named Jean bought the suitcase. The old owner said to Jean, “Watch out for this suitcase. The handle falls off, and the latch flies open.” This made Jean look very closely at the suitcase. “No wonder it suddenly opens,” she said. “People expect it too hold too much. I won’t put so much inside.” Jean looked at the handle. “No wonder it falls off. The case is too heavy for such a small handle.” The suitcase could hardly believe it. Jean put inside the suitcase only what it could easily hold. When she knew it was too full, she carried it in her arms instead of tying it together with rope. Jean and the suitcase got used to each other. One day Jean said, “There are so many address labels on it. Someone might not know it’s mine.” Jean took off all of the old ones, only she did it very carefully. Then she polished the brass trim. For the first time in a very long time, the suitcase looked in the mirror and smiled. “I look OK,” it thought.
One day Jean said, “I wish this suitcase could talk. It’s been so many places, I bet it has had some interesting adventures.” “Some adventures!” thought the suitcase. “I’ve been dropped, left out in the rain, lost, rusted, dented, and scratched.” When the suitcase remembered, it wanted to yell and scream and kick and just carry on in general. It carried on for awhile. The mad went away. The sad came and then went away too.
The suitcase thought a lot about its travels and all of the things that had happened to it. Itremembered all of the things it had learned. It knew how to find a room for itself when the baggage compartments on buses and planes were full. It knew how not to get stepped on when its owner left it in the aisle on a bus. It learned how to find its way in new places. It knew how to get even when it was mad and how to make the mad go away so it didn’t have to get even anymore. It knew that, even if it got scratched and dented, it could be fixed again.