It was Monday morning, January 26, 2009, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Just an hour or so before we met the other families from our agency who were meeting their children on this same day. None of us had slept the night before, anticipating what was to come, our last nights as the families that we had been, the eve of the families we were becoming. The clock ticked past the time our children were supposed to arrive and closer and closer to our futures, futures we had probably imagined a million times, futures we had no idea of, really. I ran upstairs to our room for something – now, I can’t remember what – and in that one minute, the van with our children arrived and they all unloaded into our courtyard. Running back down the stairs, I crossed the doorway into the common area.
“They are here,” BF told me. Even now, I tear at this memory: I am standing in this common area, not yet at the door. This is the last moment of never having laid eyes on my son, one more step and I will know his face for the rest of time.
I moved towards the doorway and my eyes darted over the older children, each one a picture of sweetness, of shyness, of hope. And then, there, in the middle of the courtyard was a nanny that I recognized from photographs and a baby boy who was our son. I stopped, paused on that doorframe, suddenly struck by the metaphor of crossing this threshold: our baby boy so beautiful, so healthy, so joyful, just steps away from me, and I on the precipe of hoping I could be the mother he deserved. I made my way towards him, towards his nanny, and in Amharic that I had practiced for days, I told her how healthy he was, how strong he was, how thankful we were for all the care she had given him. We knew how small he had been when he was brought to the care house; it was evident how much she had done to make him thrive. To meet us, she had put him in pajamas we had sent two months before. I cried. I marveled. I reached my fingers out to him. And that baby boy, magnetic, charismatic, magic even then, reached right back.
That is it, isn’t it? The magic of how families form– whether they are biological or adoptive or married into or assumed over time. We make gestures, we extend, we reach, and, in the space between feeling and knowing, someone reaches back and a finger, a palm, pressed lips, something, becomes a life line, the umbilical cord of sustenance, making the union complete.