Happy Homecoming?

The girls arrive at the airport and are greeted with cheers, applause, welcome signs and hugs.

Their Aunt Iona expresses her glee at having the girls back. "I am just overwhelmed by it. It just gave me goosepimples all over."

"I've just been waiting to hug them for a long time. I knew that their dad would take great, great care of them. And I knew that he wouldn't allow anything to harm them," Michael's mother adds.

"Unless you'd lost somebody, I don't know how you could understand it," says Michael's father. "They were just gone. Nothing is solved by coming back. The work is just started."

Michael, says, "I haven't seen them this excited since we left Belize. As far as the children and their mom, we're all going to have to give something up for the good of the girls."

Soon, Michelle is driving toward her home with the girls in her car. "I'm just really happy to have my girls home with me, and it makes me a little teary-eyed," she says.

At the house, a sign reading "Welcome Home Mollie & Allene" adorns a window. Balloons flutter in the breeze. Inside the house, the girls remark at how everything looks the same " except the cat, which has grown much fatter.


"What happened to you?" Mol

lie asks the cat.

Even their bedroom looks the same, with all the trappings of American teenage life: Games, toys, books, a videogame console. Mollie and Michelle pore over a copy of the book, A Present Darkness.


"I still have all your games," says Michelle. "Herbie, Animal crossing. Do you want to see the kitchen?"

At the refrigerator, Allene points out some of her own artwork. Looking inside, Michelle says, "I still have some fish sticks. I've got some burritos."

"We know how to make the tortillas for the burritos," Allene tells her.

Allene asks her mother if her coconut butter is the same one she's always had. Michelle says it is, and tells her daughter that she's welcome to use it, or to use the bath gel she's got.

"Oh! What kind?" asks Allene. But her mother can't remember what the scent is called.

"It looks like we were gone for a week or something because everything is almost exactly the same," says Allene. In her bedroom, she tries on a pair of sunglasses. The girls trace their journey on a globe. Allene exclaims, "Oh, they have Belize on here! See? It's right there!"


While sitting to play a board game with the girls, Michelle asks, "Did you guys play games in Belize like this?"

"We played Scrabble. And they also had German Scrabble too," says Allene.

Later, Michelle remarks on what it's like to have her girls back. "It feels really good. I can't explain it. It's the best thing I've had. I mean, just to have them home, playing games with them, seeing them play with their toys. It's good."

Back in his studio, Dr. Phil asks the girls what they thought about going home.

"About the same," says Allene. "It's a little different."

"Yeah? Mollie, how about you," he asks.

"It was kind of weird. It was really much the same," she says with a stiff laugh.

"How do you guys feel about getting to spend time with your mom again?" he asks.

Allene says, "It's been nice."

"It's been really fun," Mollie adds.

Dr. Phil asks how they feel being around television, radio and electricity for the first time in nearly a year.

"Well, electricity and that's not much different," Allene explains, "but the radio and things, that was a little different because even a lot of people in Belize, even like, the regular old people, didn't have it, a lot of them."

Then there are video games. The girls suppress a giggle as they confess to playing Mario Cart.

"Mario Cart? Yeah?" asks Dr. Phil. "So, is this confusing to you to go from one lifestyle back to another and then wonder kind of what's going to happen next?"

"It seems a lot like it was before," says Mollie. "I mean, we're used to TV and radio. We grew up most of our lives with it. So it's not really that strange."

Dr. Phil points out that Michelle felt it necessary to put a restraining order against Michael. "Obviously, this is because you're afraid that he might say, 'This isn't what I thought it was going to be,' and take off again," says Dr. Phil.

"Yes," says Michelle.

He asks the girls, "If your father came to you and said, 'Get in the car. We've got to go on the run again,' what would you do, Mollie?"

"I don't know," she ventures. "I haven't really thought about that. Well, I'm glad to see my mom and her family, and I don't really think I'd want to go away again."

"How about you, Allene?"

"I don't think he would do it again," she says, "and he didn't plan for it to pan out or go out all like it did. He didn't want it to be as big as what it was."

 

"But he could have turned around and come back at any time," says Dr. Phil.

"Well, it would have been really hard, and it wouldn't have been peace. He just would have been thrown right in jail," she says.

Dr. Phil asks if the girls want to live with their mother. Mollie says she doesn't know, so he asks if she feels comfortable there.

"Yes, we feel comfortable," she tells him.

 

"OK," he says, "and I hate to ask you those questions, but I'm going to tell you that the judge is going to ask you those questions. The courts are going to ask you those questions, and so I do want you to be thinking about those things."

 

Dr. Phil asks, "What's your dad had to say when you've talked to him? Is he concerned about going to jail?"

"No. Not really," says Allene. "He's not really concerned about him going to jail, more that what's going to happen to me and Mollie. He wants us to be, you know, comfortable and safe and everything."

Dr. Phil asks Allene if she has been frustrated with her sister. Allene looks at her sister and they both suppress a laugh.
He tells Mollie, "I understand that you've been kind of dabbling, like, how you're watching a little TV, or listening to music or doing some things that you don't think she should be doing."

"No, I don't think it would be the healthiest for her to do that, no," says Allene. "We talked about it already."

"Yeah," says Dr. Phil. "What did you say?"

"That I didn't know right now," says Mollie. "I didn't know what I wanted right now. It's just kind of a little strange to be back in the States, so I have to get used to it again."

Dr. Phil says, "Your faith is very important to both of you and I think I told you before, while it would not be my choice to go live in a Plain community, for example, that I certainly respect the decision of those who do, and I think that their pursuit of their faith in that regard is just as valid as is mine in my lifestyle. Is it your belief that the only way to be faithful is to live in a Plain community?" Mollie shakes her head and says no. "Do you think that if you put together a life here where you went to a Christian high school and you continued to make choices for yourself about what you wanted to include in your life and what you didn't, would you be at peace about living that way?


"Yeah," says Mollie, "as long as it was what I wanted, and I was making the decisions for myself."

"Right, you just don't want anything forced on you one way or the other," says Dr. Phil.

Dr. Phil addresses the girls' grandmother, Connie, where she sits in the audience. "So how do you feel about all of this, from the grandmother perspective?"

"It's been very overwhelming," she says. "I'm so glad to see them." She fights back tears. "It's very hard because they were little girls when they left, and they came back women. I don't want them to lose their childhood, and I want them to have choices," she says, wiping away a tear.

Dr. Phil asks Michelle, "Can you make it work for the girls to be back in the home with you and respecting their thoughts and beliefs and values? Can you make this work?" Michelle says she can. "What makes you think that that won't be a conflict?"


She says, "I have always tried to be very open with my daughters, and we discuss things. We talked before the television was ever turned on, you know, 'Is this going to be something that you feel that I should just not turn it on to tempt you?' and both of them were like, 'No, go ahead. Watch what you want. We'll be OK.' So I think just as long as we keep the lines of communication open, and we work together, it's going to be just fine."

 

"You know, really, there are so many things that you don't want your children to be exposed to. And there's some TV that is trash, and then there's Dr. Phil," Dr. Phil jokes.


Because of Michelle's restraining order on Michael, he is not allowed to contact the girls. He goes to court at the end of May, and the girls tell Dr. Phil they don't want to see him go to jail.

"But you do understand that parents have a responsibility to abide by the law, right?" he asks them. He tells Michelle, "The main thing you want is for him to not try to A) take the girls away from you, physically, or B) turn the girls against you in any way, right?"

Michelle says, "Correct."

"I hate it that you guys are kind of in a state of limbo in terms of not knowing exactly what's going to happen next," Dr. Phil tells Allene and Mollie. "Right now, you just need some catching up time, right? You just need to get bored together. You need to walk down to the corner and back. You need to, you just need to spend some time and get back into a rhythm of relating again and get some good Grandma time in there. That would be good with you, right?" he asks Connie.


"Oh, it would," she gushes.

"So really, let's just kind of move slowly here and take it a day at a time," he continues. "I hate that you guys have been in the middle of all this, but I have every confidence that we're going to figure a plan that everybody can be at peace with in all of this, so be patient while the adults try to unravel this ball of yarn, OK?"

Finally, Dr. Phil says to Michelle, "Well this has been an amazing journey, has it not? It's astounding that I didn't even know you what just three, four weeks ago, and since that time we've been able to come together, set a goal, start this globe trotting, find two precious young women in the middle of the Belizean jungle and get them back sitting next to you."