Sade Baderinwa came into Edie House's life when she was 4. House remembers the little girl's navy blue and red dress with white piping, her saddle shoes and Afro. Sade couldn't pronounce House's name. She called her "Edick." Soon enough, though, the child would ask, "Edick, can I call you Mom?"
Today, Baderinwa, a WBAL anchor, is on the threshold of a promising television career. Proudly watching from home is House, former WBAL anchor and public affairs manager.
As a child, Baderinwa spent many hours with House in the television newsroom. "I remember the studio from when Edie had her own show. I could invite my friends," Baderinwa says.
She watched House at work and got to meet station guests such as 1980s pop singer Stacy Lattisaw and Stevie Wonder. And she remembers how House rose before dawn to do the morning news show, just as Baderinwa does today. "She really paved the way," she says of House.
Now director of communications for the Baltimore City school system, House beams with pride when speaking of Baderinwa. She stresses, though, that a television career was strictly Baderinwa's idea. "I never encouraged her nor did I discourage her," House says during a conversation with Baderinwa at a Cross Keys cafe. "Not because I didn't want her to do it; it had to be her decision. [In television, you spend] so much time working, you need to do something that you really want to do."
The two women first met when Sade accompanied her father, a family friend, to the House residence in Baltimore. At that point, Baderinwa was in her father's custody and her birth mother was not in the picture.
House, then in her 20s, and her parents, James and Edith, were smitten by the affectionate little girl. She was the kind of child "you would want to love and kiss all the time," House says.
Sade often stayed with House and her parents. House remembers once, when Sade spent the weekend, her mother, a stickler for propriety, insisted on polishing her scuffed white shoes.
Another time, House retrieved Sade from her prekindergarten class and the rattled teacher told her: "We had show and tell today and Sade told the class that she wore a bra and drank beer."
The "little boys were so excited," House said. On the way home, she set the little girl straight about telling whoppers.
When Sade was about 7, her father left for Africa and didn't return. House, then in her 20s, and her parents took in the little girl as if she were their own. If House occasionally found herself explaining Sade's presence to puzzled acquaintances, little Sade needed no such clarification: "To me, she was my mother. She always will be."
Baderinwa was equally close to House's parents. Her grandmother Edith, who as a child also knew the pain of being abandoned, made no distinction between biological grandchildren and her, Baderinwa says. "Whatever the other kids got, I got," Baderinwa says.
House's late father was a taxi driver and there wasn't a lot of money to go around, but the family sent Baderinwa to elementary school at Cathedral of Mary Our Queen.
Baderinwa received more than unconditional love from the House family. She also received "a sense of values. Edie taught me how to be a lady, to have aspirations, to work hard and be classy," she says. Once, House realized that Baderinwa had taken money from a purse in their home. She "made me go to confession," she says. "I had to sit before the priest and say why I stole the money. I thought I was meeting God."
Such life lessons "really helped shape who I am today," Baderinwa says.
About five years after Sade had become part of her family, House received a call at work from her daughter's birth mother, who had lived in Montgomery County all along. She wanted to see Sade.
"I knew that day was coming," House says. Still, it was a heartbreaking moment. "I was a single woman. I didn't see a future for getting married. Sade and I were very close."
She also understood that Sade yearned to know her biological mother, as House reminds her: "Once when my mother was combing your hair, you asked, 'Grandma, do you ever forget your Mom?' "
House and her mother accompanied Sade, then 12, to a meeting with her birth mother at Clyde's in Columbia. "It was a very moving moment," House says.
Her ties to Sade were not severed. "We worked out an arrangement, thanks to God," House says. Sade, for example, spent all holidays with the House family. But House deliberately gave her room to meld with her new family, which included a half-brother and two stepbrothers. "It really has taken so much love on Edie's behalf. She allowed my relationship to flourish with my mother," says Baderinwa, who's now in her early 30s. House says simply: "I needed Sade to have that space. They needed to bond as a family."
Living in Montgomery County with her German mother, Baderinwa was introduced to "a more global perspective." But she also had to adjust to living with a suburban white family, after growing up in an urban black community. Her environment had changed completely. And now, it was often Baderinwa's turn to explain her place in life.
It was a struggle to adjust, but one that she was better able to endure, aware that she was well loved. And while House kept her distance, she always encouraged Baderinwa to talk about her emotions, as did her birth mother. Even today, House finds herself reminding Baderinwa to let go of anger. "It can strangle you," she says. "You can ask why something happened, and no matter how many answers you get, it never satisfies you."
Today, Baderinwa is in touch with her birth mother and father, who both live in the Baltimore-Washington area.
When Edie married Richard Foster, a WBAL cameraman who is now program director for the Newseum in Washington, he knew "Sade was going to be a part of our lives," House says. Their children, son R.J., now in college, and Nicole, a high school senior, "see her as their big sister. House's "entire family feels very blessed that God sent her to us," she says.
Baderinwa graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park, where she majored in agriculture business and resource economics. It was on a solo backpacking trip through Europe, where she found herself interviewing people she met on the road, that Baderinwa realized she was destined to be a reporter. She came to WBAL more than two years ago after newscaster positions in Washington and Roanoke, Va.
As she learns the ropes of broadcasting and the attendant public role her position demands, Baderinwa says she has a "shining example" to look to. She remembers driving with House to numerous speaking engagements and guest appearances, and learning from her "how important it is to be involved in your community."
For House, in her early 50s, "the people you cover on a day-to-day basis -- your response to the community," are more important than "just zapping somebody."
In that spirit, Baderinwa works with disadvantaged kids through a local chapter of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. She was a vocal booster for the city's new batting helmet law, passed last December. And when the Maryland Terps celebrated their NCAA championship at City Hall last month, Maryland alum Baderinwa was the jubilant emcee.
Baderinwa is a natural in front of the camera, but from time to time, veteran House will advise her. "I will suggest, 'Don't wear that blouse again, it's distracting.'" Or she'll tell Baderinwa to take a deep breath to focus if she's been "kicking words, left and right." It's natural to make mistakes, House says. "It's how you react to those mistakes."
As always, though, House is careful not to interfere too much. "She's allowed me the room to find my own way," Baderinwa says.
House also wants Baderinwa to continue reporting, even as she co-anchors the morning show. "That's the foundation for anyone in the field," she says.
And that's where the young journalist will meet and perhaps be able to help the children who may not have an Edie House in their lives. Says Baderinwa, "I don't know where I'd be if Edie hadn't stepped up to the plate."
But it wasn't just House who helped to rear that little girl. It was also a joint effort by grandparents, godparents and others. "So many touched her and loved her unconditionally," House says.
This isn't an unusual Mother's Day story, House says. "There are many people in this city who are doing the very same thing; just taking some child and loving them and taking care of them."