Tag Archives: Middle East

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!

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The Flower Garden

 

Flower Garden: An Arabic Adoption Folktale

Yippee!! Adoption Today Magazine published my short folktale, The Flower Garden, in their September issue which has just been released.  You can read it here below, or go to their website, http://www.adoptinfo.net/catalog_g111.html?catId=55347. (It looks like you may need a subscription to read it there.)

“A folktale is a type of traditional story that tries to explain or understand the world. Such stories were orally passed down through the generations and feature morals or lessons. The stories usually take place long ago in a faraway place and are woven around talking animals, royalty, peasants, or mythical creatures. In a folktale, goodness is always rewarded. Heroes and heroines live happily ever after while villains are suitably punished. Throughout the generations, the story may change but its core remains the same. They mirror the values and culture of the society from which they originated. “(http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-a-folktale.)
I mentioned before I love to read, and I read almost anything I can get my hands on. When I was little I would spend hours squirreled away in the corner of the library, pulling books off of the shelves and reading. I read all genres: mystery, humor, fiction, historical fiction, fantasy, biographies… not too much science fiction, but that’s just me.  I read the Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew, Amelia Bedelia, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, books by Lois Lenski and Beverly Cleary, and the scandalous Judy Blume, (which were shelved by themselves way up high on a shelf. I would have to sneak to read those!). I especially loved reading about places that seemed far away and mysterious. I loved reading the true stores of Brothers Grimm, the Blue Fairy Tale Books; and the scary Russsian tales of Baba Yaga with her house on chicken legs kept me awake for many nights. Funny to think that one of my favorite books was a wonderful, illustrated multi volume of the Children’s Bible. I can still see them all, taking up a whole row on the bookshelf, bright blue and white binding. I wasn’t so much interested in the religion part but found the stories contained within those pages magical, fascinating and frightening.

After my youngest daughter was home for a bit, I began to think about different ways to tell her about her life story, her adoption story. There are many ways to tell people things; the good old straight away, and the metaphorical.  Sometimes we may have to be told things in a few different ways before we can really grasp the meaning or importance behind it.

I think many of us have forgotten about the power of fairy tales and fables.  The joy of reading something that is told through symbols,and the inner work that it takes to sometimes decipher the messages embedded within.  Kids get this stuff, it seeps into their brains and they work it out little by little. That’s the magic.  The meanings may not hit you over the head, but seem to pop up over time here and there.

When we were in the Middle East, (and even at home a few times), people sometimes asked us if we were going to tell our daughter that she was adopted. I was so surprised at this question. “Of course we will tell her!” I thought, ‘What a strange thing to ask.” (See my previous post, Letter to My Daughter’s Birth Mother, to see the sometimes-bumpy road that thought has had).  One day my husband said to someone who had asked, “Yes, as a matter of fact, I told her last night. So now she knows. Phew! Glad we got that out of the way”

I laughed. Our daughter was only ten weeks old, and he had sat with her in the rocking chair the previous night, singing and talking to her. I guess among the things he spoke to her about was her story: us finding her, her finding us. So there it was, out in the open, now she knew. She is adopted. We love her. End of story.  (Not really, of course this will be an ongoing story, but I love his directness.)

The Flower Garden grew out of all of this; my love of books, my love of other cultures, my love for my daughter. I would like my child to have a story about her life that is a bit magical. (Wouldn’t we all love to have a story written about us?) One that incorporates her culture, her history and the wonderful land she is from.

So, here it is my short folktale for my daughter, and for all the children and families in the Middle East who have been touched by both the loss and love of adoption.

The Flower Garden

In a far away land of love and sorrow, strength and hardship there lived a kind young farmer. He was very handsome with eyes the deep color of evergreen and arms as thick and strong as the magnificent cedar trees that covered the hilltops. Over time the young farmer fell in love with a maiden from a nearby village. The maiden was beautiful with long shiny black hair; red lips and the most lovely heart-shaped face that all the villagers said reflected the great love in her heart. Together the young couple worked hard, harvesting their land, growing wheat and olives, and tending to their animals. They were happy, but more than anything the maiden longed for a small flower garden, for it seemed with all their hard work, there was never enough time for she and the farmer to just sit together and watch the gentle sunrise in the morning and the brilliant stars at night.

One spring day the maiden awoke. It was soon to be the anniversary of the day she and her love had first met and she had been working for many months on a small gift to give him. She had gathered the wool from only the finest sheep, combing it over and over until it was soft and light, and then spinning it endlessly on the wheel. She spent many nights bent over her loom making the cloth she needed and finally walked to the market to sell fresh eggs, greens from the garden and her special, delicious honey cakes. Using the money she earned from her wares she bought all the goods she needed for the farm, and then using a bit of the extra money from her cakes, she bought some delicate, golden thread. That night she picked up her needle and using the gold thread set about putting the final details of embroidery on the cloth.

The day of the anniversary she and the farmer went about their usual chores feeding the animals, tending to the crops, and raking out the barn. By midday they were tired and hungry so the maiden gathered some olives and cheese for lunch and using figs, sugar and flour made a special pastry. After they ate, the maiden took out the magnificent cape she had made and wrapped it around the farmer’s broad shoulders.

“For you,” she said. “So you can stay warm, and think of me while you work in the fields.”

The farmer smiled, saying, “I do not need any reminder of you, for you are always in my heart, but I will wear this robe proudly.”

He then took out his hand; in it was a small piece of folded cloth.

“I am sorry my gift is not as grand,” he said.

The maiden carefully unwrapped the cloth and there inside sat a single, tiny, flower seed. The farmer told the maiden that it was time for them to have a flower garden, where they could sit together in the morning and again at night, and he was certain that the blossoms in the garden were going to be as beautiful as she.

The maiden promised the farmer that she would give the plant all her love every day, and she was certain that the flowers would not only be beautiful but also have vines as strong as the cedars on the hills and as green as his own eyes, for it would take the love of both of them to make it grow.

Together they dug a small hole in the dirt, near the corner of the house where the sun rose, whispered their love into the ground and gently covered over the seed.

Every morning the maiden woke up, watered and cared for the seed. She would sing and talk to the little flower she knew was growing below, and as she waited she imagined the beautiful flower garden she and the farmer would someday share.

But as often happens, these things were not to be, for one day the farmer was working in the olive grove when the trees started to blow and the leaves began to dip in and out in a dangerous dance. The farmer looked to the distance and saw a dark, whirling cloud of thick, black smoke racing towards him. Quickly he got on his horse and rode towards the house thinking only of his love. He knew just where she would be, at the corner of their house tending to their dreams.

“Quickly, quickly,” he shouted, “We must go. Danger is coming!”

The maiden’s eyes opened wide in fear and she trembled as she leapt onto the back of the horse.

“Wait, wait! Our garden, our dreams!” she cried as they started to ride away.

The farmer stopped, the clouds above their heads were turning a cold, grey color and he knew they couldn’t stay much longer. There was no time to dig up the precious flower. Taking off his cape he leaned down and draped it gently over the little mound of dirt.

“Be safe little one,” he whispered before turning and galloping away.

The storm rolled in, dark and fierce, destroying everything in it path; tearing down the valley, tossing aside the mighty cedar trees, and destroying all of the hard-earned crops. It raged on for days, determined to wipe out all that it touched, but somehow, quietly, beneath the safety of the farmer’s cape and protected by the maiden’s whispered love, the small plant grew.

A while later a man and his wife from the city, who had heard about the deadly storm, decided to go to the countryside and see if they could offer some assistance to those who lived there. They knew all about sadness and lost, having experienced much of their own, and as they walked through the abandoned village and devastated farmlands the woman’s shoulder sagged. She couldn’t help but think about all of the families that were lost, and the hopes and dreams that had been destroyed. Suddenly her foot caught on something and she stumbled forward. There on the ground was a ripped and tattered cape, its gold thread shining ever so slightly through the thick layer of dust that covered it. The woman lifted the cape and there beneath it, protected from the devastation, was a tiny, flower shoot just beginning to show one folded red bud at the very top.

Her husband took out his knife and carefully dug up the plant. Wrapping it in the dusty cape, he handed it to his wife, and she cradled it gently to her chest.

They carried the tiny flower home to their small apartment in the city, and there the women planted it in a simple clay pot. Every day she would water and tend to the plant, moving it about from window to window to make sure it had just the right amount of sunshine. She had always wanted a small flower garden of her own, where she and her husband could sit together in the morning as the sun rose and watch the stars twinkling at night, but living in the crowded, busy city gave them no room and little time for such a place. Still the woman had dreamed and wished and hoped, and now she was filled with happiness at the thought of even one small flower. She sang and laughed as she took care of the plant, and waited patiently for the beautiful flower she knew would emerge one day. And then one day the plant started to grow.

The vines of the plant were green, strong and thick, and each flower that bloomed was bright red, and shaped like a perfect heart. As each blossom opened the sweetest perfume burst forth filling the tiny apartment with a lovely fragrance.

The vines grew quickly, racing up the walls, and in and out of the curtains, covering the apartment from top to bottom in beautiful petals. Finally, when there was no place left to go inside, the plant began to climb out the window. It stretched outside, trailing down to the ground encasing the sides of the grey cement high-rise with a thick blanket of rich red. The vines then ran back up to the roof, winding around and around an old abandoned trellis and creating an amazing flowery canopy. Almost overnight the once empty city rooftop was transformed into a magical garden, full of life, color, and sweet perfume, where the couple could sit together in the early morning and watch the stars shining at night.

Soon word of the splendid roof garden spread all across the land and people came to see the beautiful, red heart-shaped flowers. Suddenly there were wonderful children’s parties in the roof garden; splendid weddings, and magical dances with jeweled ladies in glimmering silk gowns and handsome men in colorful robes. Musicians would come to play their instruments under the hanging flowers, the mystical beat of the drums and flickering chimes of their tambourines mixing with the heavenly fragrance of the many blossoms. The sounds and scents drifted away, over the shiny minarets and past the golden domes of the city to the broken countryside, and into the window of one small cottage.

The roof garden was such a busy place full of life and love, and the husband and wife’s hearts were filled with joy, but sometimes, after the guests had all left and it was just the two of them, they would sit and talk, and wonder about the people who first planted the flower and saved it from certain ruin.

One morning as the city was first waking, the woman and her husband stood in their flower filled kitchen preparing their morning tea, when something caught their eye. A young couple was standing together under the flowers. It was too early in the day for a wedding or a celebration of any kind, and the woman wondered what they were doing there. Her husband watched them through the window for a bit, and then he slowly turned. Opening a cupboard, he took down the old, dusty cape he had stored away a long time ago. He rubbed his hand slowly along the soft cloth until the gold thread began to shine through.

“It is time,” he said, gently taking his wife’s hand.

The couple in the garden turned as they approached and the woman saw the man’s face for the first time. It was strong and handsome with the deepest, greenest eyes she had ever seen. The young maiden by his side had her hair covered with a modest cloth, but it could not hide the lovely heart-shaped face or the beautiful red lips, the same color as the many flowers that now hung over her head.

“Excuse us,” said the farmer, bowing his head just a bit. “We have travelled far. We heard the music at night… it floated in our windows, filling our ears with the sounds of love, and the beautiful aroma of the flowers filled our dreams so we couldn’t sleep. We had to come.”

The woman’s legs shook with fear and her heart raced. She sank down on a nearby bench as terror flooded her heart; she knew it was them. They had come to take her precious flower away.

And then the young maiden began to cry.

“It is so beautiful,” she said. “So much more than I ever dreamed…”

She sat down on the bench next to the woman. A tear fell from her eye and slipped to the hard concrete floor of the rooftop, and then another and another.

“There was no time. No time,” she sobbed, holding her head in her hands.

The woman leaned over and gently took the young maiden in her arms.

“The dream began with you,” she said, “ Without you, there would be no flower garden here. No music, no magical parties with laughing children and grand dances. It would be just another empty city roof top.”

Their tears fell together.

The husband took the faded cape from his arms and held it out to the farmer.

“I believe this is yours,” he said.

The farmer swallowed hard and nodded, “Yes, I thought it might…”

The husband smiled and nodded, “It worked,” he said. “You saved it, see?”

He gestured towards the glorious garden and as he did the most wondrous thing began to happen. A small vine began to push itself up from the harsh concrete where the women’s tears had fallen. It grew quickly, stretching upwards, wrapped around the bench, and slowly twisted and turned, gently enveloping the two women in its branches, stopping only as a single red flower started to bloom. The beautiful flower slowly unfurled to reveal inside a very small bird.

The bird’s feathers were a shiny deep black mixed with bright red streaks, and a single thread of gold ran straight through the center of each majestic plume. The tiny creature looked at the couples with large, green eyes, and although small her eyes reflected a great inner strength. The bird raised her gracious head into the air, puffed up her chest, and opening her beak sang out a breathtaking melody. A beautiful song without words that told a story of hardship and strength, sorrow and love. Then spreading her magnificent wings, she flew away into the sky.

The two couples stayed for many days and nights surrounded by their magical flower garden. Together they watched the gentle sunrise and later the pink sunset, and always the marvelous, magical bird was there soaring over the dusty rooftops, and among the brilliant stars, singing her song for the whole city to hear… and there was plenty of time. Plenty of time.