Tag Archives: adoption

Every Story Needs A Beginning.

Published on http://www.chicagonow.com/portrait-of-an-adoption/2015/11/every-story-needs-a-beginning/
By Anne Sawan

There are some stories in life that we tell our children over and over. Favorite books, old fairy tales. Books that hold messages and lessons we want to pass on. Stories that have meaning, that matter to us.

I was driving in the car with my seven-year-old daughter. It was a warm summer night, just the two of us, a wide-open evening full of possibilities and fireflies. After camp she usually likes to tell me stories about her day, about the arts and crafts they created, the games they played, but this day she was quiet and I thought she must be tired from a long day. She certainly looked like she had been busy: her hair a mess, her sneakers scuffed, her knees dirty.

It was just the two of us that evening, my other children scattered about at various friend’s houses to swim and eat hamburgers. I asked her what she wanted to do with our free time together.

“Can we go to the mall and get some sushi and Legos?”

I smiled.

It was always the same answer.

As we meandered down the road I glanced in the rear view mirror. She was staring out the window, a serious look on her face, her lips moving slightly as she muttered something quietly to herself.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

“Nothing,” she said, her eyes looking away, her finger tracing a path against the glass.

There was a beat of silence and then, “Mom, I know someone else who

is adopted.”

“Really?”

“Yes, he is at camp.”

I nodded, “How do you know he is adopted?”

“I heard him tell someone.”

“Oh. Did you tell him you were adopted too?”

“No.”

We drove along. Each lost in our own thoughts for a few moments. I wondered why she had brought it up, about this other camper. Having no real inkling about what to say next, but knowing there was something there, hidden in her words, I casually asked, “If someone at camp were to ask you what that other camper meant by adoption, what would you say?”

My daughter shrugged, her finger still smudging an imaginary track against the window. “I guess I would say, it means someone had you but they had to get rid of you, so your mom and dad got you.”

Get rid of you?

I pulled into the mall parking lot, my heart thumping.

My daughter.

My beautiful, sassy, silly, sweet, wonderful daughter thought someone just… got rid of her?

I turned around. “Honey,” I said. “Your birth mother didn’t just get rid of you, she loved you.”

My daughter stared at me, her brown eyes growing wide, her hand falling away from the window.

“She did?”

My mind swirled.

Hadn’t I told her?

Hadn’t I told her, her adoption story a million times?

Hadn’t I told her something like this:

You didn’t grow in my tummy, you grew in your birthmother’s tummy, but she couldn’t keep you, I am not sure why. But your dad and I wanted you soooo much so we flew far across the deep ocean and over the tall mountains, picked you up, wrapped you in a soft pink blanket, flew back across the big ocean and over the mountains where everyone was waiting for you and we had a big party full of love and kisses and cake!

Brakes.

Rewind.

Did I say, “I’m not sure why, but she she loved you very much”

Did I say, “I’m not sure why, but she loved you very much and it must have been very difficult for her to say goodbye.”

I must have.

I did.

Didn’t I?

My child’s beginning is unknown. I don’t know the reasons why her birth mother couldn’t keep her and I realized that in telling her I try to breeze quickly by that part, the beginning. It just seems tricky and messy and fraught with such hard questions and deep sadness that I hurry through, telling my daughter instead a story of a kisses and cake and a soft pink blanket that enveloped her with love; shielding her from sorrow.

I so want that story to be enough. For our love to be enough…but it can’t be, because it’s not her story.

When we open a book, we don’t just jump into the middle. We need to have an understanding of where the story begins, and my daughter’s beginning, although difficult, is just as important as any other; a beginning that doesn’t start with my love, but with the extraordinary love of another person. A love that while complicated shouldn’t just be casually rushed over. A love that deserves to be talked about slowly and carefully and with respect. A love like a cherished old book on the shelf, that can be revisited over and over again.

So I took a deep breath and slowly, slowly I spoke,

“Sweetie, I don’t know why your birth mom couldn’t keep you but I do know that she didn’t just get rid of you. Maybe she was too young to have a baby, or maybe she didn’t know how to be a mom yet but she loved you very, very much; and she did the hardest and bravest thing a mom could ever do and found you a place where she knew you would always be safe and where she knew there would be a family that would love you as much as she did.”

My daughter stared, her brown eyes meeting mine.

“Really?”

“Yes, really. She loved you and you know what else? You are full of extra love because you have love from your birth mom and love from all of us.”

A broad smile settled on her lips.

The story was shifting, the words were changing, slightly perhaps, but it was enough… for now.

“Can we go get some sushi and Legos now?”

“Of course.”

Anne Sawan is a mom of five, a psychologist and an author, having books published with MeeGenuis, as well as having articles published on Adoption Today, Adoptive Families, Brain Child, Scary Mommy and BluntMoms. She won The International Picture Book contest held by Inclusive Works and Clavis Publishing in 2014 and her book, What Can Your Grandmother Do? is scheduled to come out sometime this year.

A Real Mom

I haven’t written anything here for so long, but something irked me recently and I have something to say, and when a mom has something to say, she says it! So roll your eyes if you must, here it is.

I was perusing my Facebook news feed the other day, checking up on friends, reading various articles, when I stumbled upon this post posted by a well respected, well known online news publication.

A photo of three dogs with the caption: We’re adopted? OMG!!! You mean you’re not our real mom?

And underneath the post: Precisely why I’m not letting my pups know. What they don’t know, can’t hurt ’em.

Immediately I stopped. Now obviously it’s about dogs, great, I get it, and I know, it’s suppose to be funny, I should lighten up, but… those words, “You mean you’re not our real mom?” stuck with me all day: at the supermarket, the post office, the coffee shop; everywhere I went I saw infants strapped to their moms, young children skipping along next to their moms, teenagers slumped down in the front seats of cars next to their moms, adopted or not? I don’t know. I am sure some of them were and some of them weren’t but all of those moms sure looked real to me. I tried to talk myself out of my silly thoughts, perhaps I was overreacting, so I went home and reread the post, which by now had thousands of likes, hoping to see it through different eyes, and then I scrolled down and read the comments, here are a few:

“I never say, “adopted” in front of my fur babies because I know they understand English”

“I never say the “A” word.”

“Mine would never believe you if you told them I wasn’t their real mom.”

But you said that we’re your BABIES!!”

dogs

And then came another photo of a dog, that said, “I’m adopted??? OMG! You mean you’re not my real mom?”

Maybe I shouldn’t have read those comments by all those ignorant people, but I did and my blood began to boil. “I never say adopted”, “The A word.” “You mean you’re not my real mom?” Wow, I thought, how would my daughter or someone else’s child feel reading this? I had always promised myself I wouldn’t become one of those crazy, over the top, annoying, politically correct parents.  I believe that the world should strive to laugh more at itself; I don’t want to be one of those people that everyone has to be extra cautious around, and maybe four children back I would have been the one saying, “Oh calm down! It’s just a joke!” But life changes you, love changes you and I am not the person I use to be.

What does it mean to be “real?” Real means to be actual, genuine, valid, true, physical and tangible; something not imagined. I am my daughter’s real mom. I worry when she is sick, I laugh when she is silly, I hold my breath when I see her struggle, I get annoyed when she acts up, I cry when she is hurting and sometimes, as I watch her sleep, her hair a dark tangled mess, her eyelashes fluttering against her cheek, I have to take a deep breath, humbled by how fortunate I am to have this child in my life. These things are not imagined. These feelings occur with all of my children. I love each of them to my core, to the center of my soul, to the middle of my bones, whether they grew beneath them or not. I am a real mom to all of them and I am tired of people insinuating otherwise when it comes to adoption. Adoption is not the “A” word something to be hidden or ashamed of, adoption is something to be celebrated and we will celebrate because we are a REAL family. Real: actual, genuine, valid, true, physical and tangible; something not imagined.

And by the way, the dog joke…it’s not funny.

Sweet Sand

Sweet SandIMG_1468

 

I went to the beach last week with my kids. After forcefully applying sunscreen to my two older boys they finally broke away and ran off, quickly gathering a group of kids for a wiffle ball game, while my five year old, Eliza, plopped herself down on the sand by the edge of the water and began digging.

Soon a stout little girl in a flowered bathing suit sidled up.

 

“Whatcha ya doing?” She asked.

“Building a mermaid castle,” my daughter replied. “Wanna help?”

“Sure.” The girl said, picking up a shovel, “I’m Ava.”

 

(Amazing: a bat and ball… a bucket of wet sand, apparently that’s all you need to spark a few friendships. We adults certainly have a lot to learn, or unlearn perhaps.)

 

The two little girls planted themselves not far from my chair and began to dig, chatting as they worked side by side: How old are you? Do you have a cat? How many teeth have you lost? Important stuff like that.

“My mom had a baby.” I heard Ava say as she flung a shovel full of sand into the air.

“Oh,” said my daughter, pouring a bucket of seawater into a hole.

“She’s my sister. Her name is Sophie. See?”

 

Ava pointed a few seats down to a woman sitting under a large umbrella with a baby sling wrapped protectively around her body.

 

“Do you remember being a baby?” Ava asked.

 

Eliza shook her head.

 

“Me neither,” said Ava, diligently digging. “But my mom said I was sweet.” She laughed, “She said that she ate a lot of sweets when I was growing in her tummy that’s why I came out so sweet. She’s so silly! What did you mom eat when you were in her tummy?”

 

I glanced up from my book, curious to hear my daughter’s reply.

 

Eliza shrugged, “I don’t know…Maybe mac and cheese?”

Both girls giggled.

 

The girls worked on, decorating their structure with broken shells and gathering some unsuspecting hermit crabs (excuse me, I mean mermaids) to occupy their castle but soon the tide began to creep in, the water splashing at the walls of sand until at last the mermaid castle crumbled. The girls shrieked as the shells swirled about on the beach and the freed crabs all quickly scurried away.

 

After a brief lemonade and snack break the girls recovered from their loss and happily skipped off to swim together in the ocean.

It was a good day.

 

Later that night back at the beach house after a dinner of charred hamburgers, a trip to the local ice cream shop, and an evening full of silly cartoons I laid down, exhausted, in bed next to Eliza, bits of sand scratching away at my legs and back. Blasted sand, I thought, always sneaking into the house no matter how much I insisted everyone rinse their feet with the hose, use the outdoor shower and leave their flip flops at the door. I tossed and turned trying to get comfortable.

 

Eliza rolled over, flinging her tanned arm across my chest and pushing her nose against mine.

 

“Mom,” she breathed. “What did you eat when I was in your tummy?

 

My heart dropped.

 

“On the beach,” she continued. “Ava said her mom ate a lot of sweet stuff when she was in her tummy and that’s why she’s so sweet. So… what did you eat?”

 

“Well…” I took a deep breath, giving a futile swipe at the sheets, trying to brush the irritating sand away, down, onto the floor. “You were never in my tummy remember? You grew in someone else’s tummy.”

 

“Oh, yeah…right.”

 

There was a long silence then as we lay there together in the bed listening to the soft whir of the overhead fan, little pieces of sand poking insistently at our legs, our backs. Invisible bits that never seemed to leave no matter how hard I tried to sweep them up and toss them away.

 

“Mom?”

“Yes?”

“I think you ate a lot of sweets too.”

 

I held her close.

“Me too sweetie. Me too.”

 

 

Does She Know?

November is National Adoption month. 
Does She Know?
Last week I was at a function with my family when an older woman came over and asked about my children.  She knew one of my daughters is adopted and quietly whispered into my ear, “Does she know?”  I didn’t think she was being rude, just curious. She is from a different generation and culture than me. A time and place where children often weren’t told they were adopted, and parent were even encouraged not to tell, not to talk about it. Secrets.
 
I nodded and whispered back, “Yes, she does.” The old woman smiled and patted me on the shoulder, “It’s better that way, don’t you think?” Then she walked away.
Secrets…perhaps she has her own.
 
I sat there for a while after she left and looked at my young daughter, mulling over the question in my head, does she know?
Does she know?  Yes, she knows she’s adopted. She will tell you, if it comes up, “I am adopted.” We have conversations about adoption, have read a few books that explain what adoption is, and many nights as we lay together I tell her the story of how her dad and I flew far across the ocean, wrapped her up in a pink blanket and took her home to a big party of waiting siblings and excited relatives. But does she know? Does she truly know what it means, this word, adoption?
 
No. How could she know? She is young, and busy with more important things like trying to figure out how to cross the monkey bars and how to ride a bike and how to count to one hundred.  Her head is full of birthday cake and colorful crayons and soft lullabies, and that’s how it should be. She knows we love her, her siblings love her. She knows we wished for her on a star, she knows we flew high above the mountains and across the ocean to get her, she knows her uncle helped us, she knows her family far away and those close by helped us, she knows about the country she came from, what they eat, how they speak. She knows a word, adoption, but its all abstract to her. She doesn’t really know all of it.
She doesn’t know.
 
She doesn’t know about the never ending sorrow that must have filled a far away woman’s soul as her belly began to grow and stretch, making room for the mysterious little arms and legs that were budding deep inside.
She doesn’t know about the rivers of joy and sadness that flowed together in the woman’s heart every time the child inside of her moved and danced, a tiny foot sending ripples across tightly pulled skin.
She doesn’t know about the spirit of grief and loss that hovered like an unwelcomed messenger in the sticky summer air, warning the woman that as the dull pangs of labor grew longer, her time with her secret was growing shorter.
She doesn’t know about the millions of tears that were shed and the hundred of kisses of joy and sorrow and thanks and love that were showered upon her before the woman finally wrapped her in a blanket and handed her to another, saying goodbye.
 
So, does she know the word, adoption? Yes, but does she truly know what it means? 
No. 
It’s a hard truth, a harsh reality to take in, that love and pain can be so connected. So entwined. So when will my daughter truly know what adoption means? When will she finally learn, understand the whole truth of what this word means?
 
I think… when it is her turn.  Her turn to hold her own child, be it through the miracle of adoption or the magic of biology, then she will know. When it is her turn to gently kiss her child’s soft cheeks, gaze with awe into its sleepy eyes and breathe in all its sweet wonder, then she will know.  When it is her turn to wrap her child in a soft blanket and bring it home to meet its family, then she will know.  When her heart rises up and she cries a hundred tears of thanks and joy and sorrow and love then she will know… finally, truly know what this word, adoption means.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Man “Adopts” Girlfriend….argh!!

Wealthy Florida businessman “adopts” his long time girl friend….

Have you seen this news headline? I did, and I was horrified and disgusted and outraged (and many other adjectives!)! So I read further…it gets worse.  Apparently this extremely wealthy forty-eight year old Florida man (John Goodman) who was (allegedly) drunk, ran a stop sign, and plowed his car into a car driven by Scott Wilson, 23. Scott’s car was then pushed into a ravine and Mr. John Goodman drove away leaving this injured young man to slowly die; drowning, alone, hurt, and trapped, for over an hour.  Now, in order to save his many, many assets, John Goodman has “adopted” his forty two year old girlfriend (Heather Laruso). This adoption makes her one of his legal “children” and because she is over thirty-five, gives her the right to immediately access his money, for his use of course.

I am not a lawyer. I have no legal training what so ever, but I am a parent, a psychologist and most importantly a person with a heart (and I’d like to think a bit of a brain), and I find this whole legal maneuver pathetic and outrageous. What type of law (state, country) allows a forty eight year old man to “adopt” a forty two year old woman for his own personal gain?  What type of message does this “adoption” of John Goodman’s girlfriend send to our children and to the larger world of people out there that are not personally involved in adoption?

Adoption is not a joke or a game. It’s not some convenient legal maneuver to be thrown around. It certainly isn’t intended to be a way to salvage the material goods of people such as John Goodman and Heather Laruso.

So, what does the word adoption mean?

Adoption is about children and families, period.

You know that deep, bottomless, mysterious love you have for your child? The one that no words can touch, that you really can’t explain but you feel tingling through your core as you watch them try for a big swing in the baseball game, or sing loudly and very out of tune in the choir, or when you kiss the tippy top of their forehead and breathe in that sweet baby scent that never leaves? Well it’s the same love for those parents whose children happen to be adopted.

Words matter, they count.  The words we choose and how we use them define us as a people. They shape our beliefs, our culture and our country.  We can’t deny that what we say influences how we think and what we believe in.

Just ask people with disabilities, the gay community, minorities’ or kids on a playground…words matter.

And the word adoption matters. Adoption is love, it’s important.  (Please don’t tell me this man might love his girlfriend, I don’t belive it. He loves himself, and his money).  Adoption matters too much to let some idiot like this guy abuse it for his own personal gain, and when I see this word, this word with such a significant, out-of-this-world, magical, mystical meaning, being thrown around, mistreated and ridiculed by someone like John Goodman I am sickened.

Oh and Heather Laruso, woman up!  You’re his “child” now; you have a right to his money?  Take all that man’s money, donate it to the adoption organization of your choice and then get out.

Image

2012: Off And Running And Writing.

2012! Wow! How did that happen? Weren’t we all supposed to die about a million times already from some sort of apocalyptic disaster? I think there is one happening this year as well.  So this might just be it, the real end.  Better go live your dreams, make your wishes come true; eat that chocolate cake before we all explode into a million microbes.

I had a great 2011. I felt like I made some strides in my writing, and want to thank you all very every much for your votes in the various contests I entered. I truly appreciated all the support and encouragement.

These writing contests remind me of the races I subject myself to every few months.  I run and run and run, maybe limping a bit a long the way, then come home proudly clutching the medal that shows I did in fact pay the entry fee for the race and my kids jump around, asking, “So, did you win?” To which I inevitably reply something like, “No, but I was the 200th runner over the line!”  They stare at me, sadly shaking their heads and place a sympathetic hand on my shoulder saying, “That’s okay Mom.” Or, more likely,  “Wow, you stink.”

Look, I know going into these races I am not going to win but I love them. I am hooked. They challenge me, give me something to put my energy into and inspire me.  I see the true athletes out there and I am in awe. These people are good! They train year round, living and breathing this stuff. Me…not so much.  In many ways these races are a lot like the writing contests.  They provide me with a goal, urging me on, daring me to learn from my mistakes and to strive to become perhaps a just a little bit better.  Afterwards when I read over my material, see my glaring errors and then read other peoples entries and see their genius I think: That’s it!  I am done, no more writing for me… then I get just a sliver of good news.  Just enough to keep me going…like two great things that happened this past week.

One, I received news from Adoptive Families Magazine that my book, The Very Best Day, was the most read printable article of 2011. That felt great! (Not exactly sure what it means.  Aren’t they all printable?  But hey, take what you can!) Now I just need a publisher…

And, two, my book A is for Adoption was published last week in the January 2012 issue of Adoption Today. So all and all, a good end to 2011 and off to a running start in 2012.

I am placing a link to Adoption Today below, but I know some people have had trouble accessing it, so I will include a copy of A is for Adoption as well.

Now here is a quick disclaimer about the book. The book is narrated by a girl named Anna, which some people, including my own children, found a bit confusing given the makeup of my family (my oldest is named Anna).

Teddy: “Wait! Anna is adopted too?”

“No, Anna is not adopted. Eliza is adopted.”

Harry: “You never told us Anna is adopted!”

“Because she’s not.”

Teddy: “Am I adopted too?”

“No!”

Eliza (crying) “Wahh! I want to be adopted like Anna.

“You ARE adopted. Anna is NOT Adopted.”

Teddy: “Are you sure I’m not adopted?”

Challenges!

I hope you all have a good, healthy, and happy New Year.

http://www.bluetoad.com/publication/?i=95083&p=38

A Is For Adoption

A is for Anna, that’s me! What’s you name? When you see the first letter of your name in this book shout it out!  A is also for adoption. I’m adopted, are you? Adopted means your birth parents couldn’t care for you and your parents really, really wanted you so they made you a part of their family, forever.  Some people are adopted when they are babies and some when they are older. Some kids are in foster care first, and some aren’t.  How were you adopted? What’s your story?

B is for birthday.  I have a birthday party every year to celebrate the day I was born.  This year I want a chocolate cake with rainbow sprinkles and a HUGE piñata. B is also for birth parents, the man and woman that made you but couldn’t raise you. B is also for brother. I have three. They like to wrestle, look for worms and play baseball.  Sometimes they let me play with them, sometimes they don’t. Do you have any brothers? Do they live with you? Do they look for worms?

C is for cookie.  Everyone knows that!  C is also for caseworker, some people call them adoption workers or social workers.  A caseworker is the person who watches over kids before they are adopted and makes sure they get to the right family.

D is for Daddy. I love my dad. He takes me on bike rides, and buys me ice cream.  I also have a birth dad. I never met mine. Do you have a dad? What do you guys like to do together? Do you know your birth dad?

E is for eternity. Eternity means forever and ever, which is how long I am going to be a part of my family.

F is for Family.  My family has a mom and a dad and three brothers and a sister and two dogs and a turtle and some fish.  My friend Lizzy has two dads, one brother and a cat and Jay has a grandma and that’s it.  All families are different.  What is your family like?

G is for Gecko, which are the only lizards that make noise. They live where is it warm. They have nothing to do with adoption, unless… are you from a warm place? Did they have geckos there? I hope I get one for my birthday. That would be cool!

H is for Happiness.  Happiness is love, fun, friends and families…. oh, and Disney World, of course!

I is for I love you. That’s it.

J is for jumping, juggling and jogging.  J is a fun letter! J is also for Judge. A judge needs to say it is okay for your parents to adopt you. I had to go with my family to a judge when I was a baby. I saw a picture of us all in our dress up clothes.  The judge wore a black robe and was holding this hammer thing called a gavel. Everyone was smiling.  Some kids go to the court when they are older.  Do you remember going to see the judge?

K is for knowledge.  That’s a big word that means to know or learn stuff, like who you are, where you are from, what your adoption story is.

L is for life and learning and love.  My birth mom and birth dad gave me life, so I could breathe and eat and swim and run, so they are really special.  Learning is important because you need to learn about who you are, where you came from, and then there is learning in school like how to read and do math. Love is the best.  I love my mom and my dad and my brothers and sisters and friends and pets and teachers and cousins and grandparents and…whew! That’s a lot of love!

M is for Mom.  I love my mom; she plays with me and likes to read to me.  What do you like to do with your mom? I know there is another person out there who is my birth mom, but I didn’t know her. I am glad she had me though, or I wouldn’t be here! Do you know your birth mom?

N is for Naked mole rats. They are small rodents who live in underground colonies in Africa. They have large teeth that stick out that they use to dig. They have very little hair and have wrinkled pink or yellowish skin. They are really funny looking and have absolutely nothing to do with adoption, unless…are you from Africa? Maybe you have seen one?

O is for open.  Open means you can talk about anything and not be scared or embarrassed to ask questions about adoption.  Your parents might not always know the answer, but they will try to figure it out for you.  Open also means something you forgot to shut, like the refrigerator door and then your mom will yell, “Who left the door open!”

P is for parents.  I have two, a mom and a dad. How about you? Parents get to make the rules like say what you can eat and where you can go, and tell you to do your homework, and stuff like that.

Q is questions. I have a lot! Like who were my birth parents? Why couldn’t they keep me? What did they look like? Where are they now? Why did the dinosaurs become extinct? How do fireflies light up like that? Do you have questions?

R is for rainbow.  Rainbows are cool and have so many different colors, just like people.  Some families look like rainbows because there can be all kinds of colors in one family: brown hair, red hair, blue eyes, green eyes, brown skin, tan skin, light skin with freckles.  If you line up your family maybe you can make your own people rainbow.

S is for super, stupendous and special!  I am all those things, super, stupendous and special, oh and my mom says I am silly. S is also for sister. I have one older sister.  She likes to play softball, swim and shop for clothes.  Do you have any sisters?  Mine is awesome, even though she doesn’t like me touching her stuff.

T is for together. Adoption is about being together as a family.

U is for Ultrasaurus which was a huge, long-necked dinosaur.  Their bones have been discovered in both South Korea and the United States.  They don’t really have anything  to do with adoption either, well unless you are maybe from South Korea or the United States. Are you?  Wouldn’t you love to ride on an Ultrasaurus!

V is for valuable.  Valuable means something that is desired or wished for or important.  My parents say all kids are valuable.

W is for wish.  My parents had a wish and it was me! I have a wish, to go to Africa and see a naked mole rat in action.

X is for Xenops, which are birds that live in South America and again have nothing to do with adoption, unless you are from South America, then, I suppose it could have to do with your adoption story.  Are you from South America?

Y is for yes! Yes I am adopted! Yes I love my family! Yes I am valuable! Yes I was wished for! Yes I have questions! Yes I want to see a naked mole rat!

Z is for zillion. I have a zillion more places to go, things to do and questions to ask.  Oh, yes, and I love my family a zillion times through.

Anne Cavanaugh-Sawan, 2012

The Very Best Day

Sorry I have been neglecting my blog! I have been pulled into this NaNoWriMo thing and have become a bit obsessed.

NaNoWriMo, for those who don’t know, is a contest of sorts where writers are encouraged to write a novel of at least 50,000 words during the month of November.  Sounds easy? You think you can do it? Go ahead, I dare you.  This is hard work, almost like writing a dissertation in thirty days, but unlike a dissertation, it is actually fun. Also unlike a dissertation, there will most likely be no reward at the end, no cap and gown, no ceremony, but for some crazy reason I need to do this.   I know there is probably no way I will finish my novel in time but the contest has at least finally got me to sit down and put on paper a story that I have been mulling over for a long time.

More on that later.

November is National Adoption month and Saturday is actually National Adoption Day. National Adoption Month is dedicated to educating people about adoption and honoring those involved in the process: adoptees, adoptive parents, birth parents, foster children, foster parents social workers, judges , etc. Whew! It takes a village! Funny that November is Adoption Month because November 17th is Eliza’s, my youngest child, actual “home to stay day.”

On November 17th, four years ago, we returned to Boston after a wonderful and life changing trip to the Middle East. A trip I never would have taken if it were not for this one small baby with big brown eyes that called me there. I met members of my husband’s family that I probably never would have met, and saw things I never would have seen.  We were treated like royalty, marched around to parties and dinners, tasting wonderful food, visiting villlages, seeing ancient ruins and beautiful underground caves filled with pools of aqua blue water.  The people were so gracious and wonderful yet through it all I felt unsettled and anxious. A piece of me was far away, across the ocean. I needed my kids.

It was freezing cold when the plane finally landed in Boston, the wind howled and snow was whipping about.  We piled into the warm limousine that was waiting for us outside, and started the last part of our journey home.  The drive to our house seemed to take forever. When we were finally passing the shops on the main street of the town where we live, I looked at my husband and said, “Now, I can breathe.”

We pulled up to a house full of family, friends, and balloons.  Eliza was passed around, we all hugged and chatted, and I felt my heart come to a quiet, peaceful rest. The next morning, long after all the well-wishers had left, I awoke to a quiet house.  I picked up my baby and went downstairs. There were plates of leftover cake and empty cups scattered about. It was wonderful. Soon the other kids ran downstairs, there was breakfast to make and cartoons to watch and I thought… this is it.

This is the best day of my life.

And…that’s what I wrote about. The wonder of being a family, the sense that the real miracles of life don’t occur with lots of fanfare and glitz, (sorry Kardashians) they occur in those small windows of time when you just breathe in each other.

I thought I would honor this special month on my small little blog by reprinting the story I wrote about that very day.  This is the original book that started this whole crazy blogging-writing thing. It was published in Adoptive Families Magazine this past summer and I placed a link to the book on the sidebar of my blog, but I never really placed the book here for all to see.

I look at this book now and think, it really isn’t just about Eliza, it is about all of us. All of the pieces of our journey, our family, our friends, near and far that brought her to us.  I also think this book could just have easily been written for biological children as well, and I may just do that one day. Here’s a start:

I remember painting the walls a foamy green, and stenciling a school of silly fish on the nursery wall.

I remember sitting in the rocking chair, my hand wrapped around my big, bloated, belly, feeling you dance inside.

I remember daddy struggling to put together the crib, swearing that several pieces appeared to be missing and the directions only came in Chinese.

I remember the excruciating pain as your big head…

Okay, wait; maybe I should work on this book a bit more.

No matter how they come, plane, or pain, all my kids are special, all are loved. Happy Adoption Month everyone.

THE VERY BEST DAY

Mommy, tell me again about the best day ever.

The day the social worker called and said you could adopt a baby, was that the best day ever?

Well, that was certainly a very wonderful day full of wishes, and dreams and hope, but no, it wasn’t the best day ever.

The day you opened the mail and saw a picture of me for the very first time was that the best day?

That was without a doubt a truly marvelous day full of happiness, excitement, and joy, but that was not the best day.

The day you went on the airplane to come and get me and bring me home, was that the best day?

That was such an extraordinary day, full of luggage, and taxis and lots of rushing around, but no, that wasn’t the best day ever.

How about the day you held me in your arms for the very first time was that the best day?

That day was so very close to being the best day.  It was definitely a miraculous day, full of love, and wonder, and awe, but it was still not the best day.

The day you, and me, and daddy all came home and there were lots and lots of people at the house having a big party with a huge painted sign saying, ”Welcome Home” that spread across the whole front porch, was that the best day ever?

That day was utterly special, incredible, amazing, and fabulous! It was a day full of hugs and kisses, meetings and greetings, brothers and sisters, grandmothers and grandfathers, aunts and uncles, cousins, and friends, cakes and cameras and gifts, but still, still it was not the best day ever, because…

While all of those days were wonderful, marvelous, extraordinary, miraculous, special, incredible, amazing and fabulous none of them were the best day, because the best day, the absolute very best day ever, was the next day.

The sun came up,

the dogs barked,

birds chirped

and you were there

There were empty cups scattered about the house,

and paper plates with crumbs of leftover chocolate cake still stuck to them.

There were scraps of wrapping paper and brightly covered ribbons covering the floor,

and three clunky suitcases waiting to be unpacked in the corner.

And you were there.

Daddy fed the dogs,

got out the flour,

and cracked some eggs into a big bowl…and you were there.

I put on a pot of fresh coffee… and you were there.

Your brothers and sister came running downstairs and suddenly there was laughter and yelling and sticky pancakes

…and you were there.

The snow started to fall quietly outside… and you were there.

And what could have,

should have,

been just an ordinary day was suddenly

wonderful, marvelous, extraordinary, miraculous, special, incredible, amazing and fabulous because you were there.

Now that, THAT was the very, very, very best day ever!