i rose just past five thirty, showered and spent a ridiculous amount of time before the mirror trying to master the shirt tucking trick. (i am a compulsive non-tucker; the tucking, more than anything, attests to the gravity of this day’s events.)
following another gorgeous spread of breakfast that i was too nervous to eat, i wheezed up four flights of stairs to grab my bag for our 7:30 am pick-up.
now, most days i’m hardly one to blink twice at a creative interpretation of time, as i too hail from a land of 7:30 means we may or may not be there by 9. this day, however, was not most days. i was more than a little anxious coming up on 8am with nary a driver in sight, but fortunately they popped up just a few minutes later, and we dieseled off for the holt office.
once there we were all-too-briefly primed for court (aka, don’t give your passports directly to the judge; no answer is wrong), then given our mile high binders of paperwork—all the documents relevant to our case, painstakingly gathered, authenticated, translated over the past twenty months. the collaborative grit and labor carrying us to this court hearing was astounding.
we piled back into the van, wove through town, the internal butterflies morphing into starlings and then belugas. soon we were tempting claustrophobia in an elevator that opened on the third floor of the court building and the hardest hour of the trip.
anything i say here will be insufficient, but i need to at least restate the obvious: adoption is rife with antitheses. you have, on the one hand, a family awash with the miracle of a child soon in our home. and yet the very fact that this child needs a second family is steeped in loss.
after twelve successive eternities of waiting, our jittery contingent of families (plus exceptionally calm lawyer) was called into the court chamber. the judge addressed us together, asking questions that we answered as a group. i loved sitting next to mike--he answered with gusto, his heart huge and pinned to his sleeve.
the hearing spanned less than five minutes; three of us were told that all of our paperwork had arrived, while one family was given a second court date. the range of emotion was brutal.
the rest of the day was injera and coffee roasting, wandering streetside shops, repacking and showers, a final group barbecue (in a word: amazing) in the guest house hut. then the twenty-eight hours of van-plane-plane-plane-car rides home.
we pulled in to a house in full swing, todd’s mom managing homework and laundry and dinner with aplomb. i was spent, wrung dry of emotion, in desperate need of a shower and two days of sleep, and itching to turn around and do it all again.
[i’ve one more day to go in journaling our trip, but i’m pausing to highlight a moment from last sunday that’s stuck close with me.]
the door scrapes open and a cross breeze catches woven sheers, sends them billowing through a bright square of window as a nanny enters our sanctuary of three.
she carries a tray of oranges with skin mottled green and gold, wedges of almost-summer on a plate. our little guy takes a couple, delight stretched across his face, and in universal four-year-old form he sucks out every last bit of juice while leaving the mangled pulp behind.
his mouth full of seeds, he looks round for a trash bin or napkin and so i hold out my hand to him. he spits those seeds into my palm without a second thought, then scampers off for the beach ball with sticky-chinned nonchalance.
and sure, our court hearing lingers two days off, and we’ve yet to be granted official approval to parent this small person. but i smile damp at that handful of orange seeds, having become, in that single act, every bit his mother.
* * *
stop by em's place for more imperfect prose on thursdays.
[traditional hut built on the grounds of the guest house]
in the clutches of jetlag, i spent most of the night wide-eyed and wired. fortunately, i wasn’t the only insomniac in the neighborhood: a nocturnal rooster crowed every few minutes to keep me company.
spring draws the belg rains (short rains) to addis ababa, but monday morning broke warm and cloudless. after another ambrosial breakfast (seriously, those dishes inspire poetry), we climbed into the tiny car with our new friends lynn and angelia to drop off paperwork at holt’s office and visit the closet-sized shops on churchill road.
[back doorway and stairs leading to the hut]
the streets of addis were bright and pulsing with blue ladas, donkeys, humanity. our driver, john, is nothing short of a miracle: hyper-aware of traffic/bodies approaching from all angles, and so comfortable with the dimensions of our vehicle that he could eek that steel frame through openings with just centimeters between us and a collision.
john also walked us from shop to shop, bantering with smiling boys and keeping these ferengi safe from our own naïveté. i’m not much of a shopper (i’m all about functional and necessary), but we do want to have a few things that evoke comfort and familiarity for our littlest, so we left with a woven blanket and embroidered tunic in cream and green.
lunch was pizza at the guest house with lynn and angelia (the brief italian occupation in the 1930’s left noticeable marks on language and cuisine). we’d known l&a a mere twenty four hours at this point, but they were compassionate and articulate and genuine and felt so much like home.
a short while later, our court buddies and a group of families on their second trip returned from a two-day stint in the southern country. (we’d remained in the city since our child had been moved to addis a couple years back.) we scurried down two flights of stairs to the lounge and met lisa and andy and mike and erika and carin and chris and landon and mindy and mindy and greg and jill, and it took me a while to figure out who went with whom but they were funny, warm, colorful. for me, it was love at first sight. :)
at four, we left for our care center with mindy and landon. our mission was to say goodbye to our son and to meet with his physician; mindy and landon were headed for a farewell ceremony to bring their little girl home. since our visits coincided, we had the rare privilege of attending their farewell ceremony, one of the most poignant hours of the trip.
the care center staff asked landon to pray on the spot, and about one phrase into his prayer we were all undone. thanks, guys, for allowing us to be present for that precious experience.
i felt numb leaving our boy, but seeing little t with her parents on the van ride home was a balm to this mama's heart, proof that this story ends (and a new one begins) with together.
we enjoyed dinner of injera, mesir (lentil) wat, and steamed greens back at the guest house with friends from our amsterdam flight, jeff and meica. these guys are all manner of awesome, and when the region lost power we couldn't have drummed up two better people with whom to share a meal by candlelight. we talked family and faith and got to hear of their day spent with a local church and compassion project.
[coffee ceremony complete with popcorn in the guest house lobby]
the electricity flicked on and off throughout the evening as i attempted to pack by flashlight for our next day's departure. (when it first dropped off in our room, we stood there in the gloom with me saying, so the thing about bringing a flashlight in case we lose power is that it might be nice to not have to dig blindly through a suitcase to find the flashlight when we lose power. duly noted.)
mostly packed, i settled onto that extra-firm mattress for another night of wide-awake. :)
our first glimpse of addis seemed a study in wild contrasts: gated hotels kissing strings of ramshackle tin, a jerry-built sector boasting hyundai showrooms, goats brushing land cruisers in streets choked with diesel.
[view from our room] [scaffolding across the street] [from the lounge]
i didn’t photograph much. snapping what i’d normally want to capture—the people, the markets, the daily minutiae—felt inappropriate and not a little unwise. i’d left my 5D at home, but even the rebel weighed heavy and ostentatious, so i shot very little outside of the guest house and care center.
we flew from here to boston to amsterdam to addis, with a brief stop in khartoum for kicks. the flights were on time and smooth and more draining that i’d expected. about 10pm saturday, our van bumped along a pocked sideroad and honked at the razor-wired gate to the guest house.
that bed and shower shimmered like a mirage. despite bone-deep exhaustion, sleep was too slippery to hold, and i was sadly awake as the 6am call to prayer tolled through the dusty morning.
[guest house courtyard]
[slice of our room] [woven art just outside our door]
breakfast sunday was a fragrant parade of kinche, oatmeal, fruit, spicy lentil samosas, and small cakes with lime marmalade. from all reports i should have tried the coffee, but the tea was steamy and perfect.
before those samosas could settle, we were whisked off in a tiny car through the streets of addis to meet our son.
[view from our decorative balcony]
i was a puddle of nerves as the nanny led us to an airy playroom and called for our littlest. a jumble of footsteps came first, then his face in the doorway, lit with curiosity.
i knelt down and he loped across the room into my arms, then hugged and kissed the mister at the prompting of the nannies. they spoke to him in smiling amharic, shut the door soft so the room held just us three.
he unearthed trucks and foam blocks from a pile of toys, balanced a few in precarious towers, then set to work aligning rows of small toys into a wall-to-wall city.
we played the whole of the morning, left for lunch, then came back to while away the afternoon. i thought he'd grow bored with these two biggish people who couldn't speak right, but he was perfectly happy to deflate the beach ball (so as to be able to blow it up once more) and page through his photo book over and again.
[from our room] [guest house stairway and what i called the tiger picasso]
[from our window nearing twilight]
when 5 o'clock hit and the car returned to ferry us back across town, he slipped his small hand easy into the mister's and walked us out. we waved long and called ciao! and sank back into those seats damp with relief. he's real. he likes us.
and while i know we have miles to go in this journey to trust and family, this day seemed an awfully fine place to start.
our trip in a nutshell: 32 hours of travel there, 72 hours in country, 28 hours of travel back. intense, but wonderful.
we got to spend a good part of sunday and a snatch of monday with our son. he’s mellow with a dash of spunk, and sweet and funny and ours. he loved to play cars ('makina, mommy!') and soccer-rugby-catch with the fiñña (balloon—what he called the beach ball), and read books (especially the photobook we brought him, which he hugged to his chest and called 'foto. foto.')
we were surrounded by amazing people—both ethiopian and american—who made us belly-laugh and took care of us and cried beside us in the van/streets/restaurants/market/guest-house. i couldn't have asked for a better travel group.
after a good deal of waiting and jangled nerves, we scooted into that courtroom on tuesday and emerged as legal parents of our beautiful boy.
we are brimming and grateful.
let’s go back.
[i'll post in more detail over the next several days. and i apologize, but i can't share photos or any identifying information of our littlest until we have physical custody next trip. soon!]
tomorrow we'll leave the house at the crack of 7am for this first trip to ethiopia. (or more likely, we'll leave at the crack of 7:12 after i've dashed back into the house for one more thing six times and the mister has had to practice deep breathing whilst waiting in the driveway. odds are on this one.)
we’d love to have you pray us along as we head out to meet our littlest. if you'd like to join in, please pray:
today -that we’d have water restored to our house. (our tank and electric well pump fizzled out on tuesday, we’re hopeful they’ll both be back up and running today. on a side note, we’ve had church family and neighbors bend over backwards to diagnose the problem and keep us watered and showered: it’s been amazing.) -that we’ll wrap up final preparations, have time to hang out with the small folk, prioritize well, and be chill.
friday/saturday -for seamless travel, patience beyond ourselves, and the ability to gather sleep where we can. that we’ll choose to see the best in the people around us (up to and including and especially each other), that our words will be steeped in grace.
sunday/monday -for meaningful time with our son. pray that he’ll have a visceral sense that we are safe and can be trusted, that we treasure him clear through, and that we will return for him.
tuesday -for a propitious court hearing, for clarity and honesty as we answer whatever the judge may ask.
tues/wednesday -for successful travel home and especially for fortitude and peace as we have to leave our little guy for a while. that we view the people around us with tenderness.
and every day: please pray that our quad of young’uns back home relish their time with grandma and don’t miss us one bit.
thank you, friends. see you all on the other side. :)
we don't have much photographic evidence of him, as he practices self-vanishment whenever a camera emerges. [i nabbed a series of shots, however, whilst making a photobook for our littlest guy, so here we go: proof that the mister exists.] [and that he's pretty cute, too.]
for his big day, the smallish folk and i collaborated on a mad lib in his honor. the kiddos supplied the series of adjectives, plural nouns, colors, verbs ending with -ing, etcetera, resulting in this gem of a tale:
By day, he is a mild-mannered and marvelous citizen, but by night our dad is none other than the legendary superhero GreenSuper-Snout. While the townspeople of Mars are fast asleep in their TVs, GreenSuper-Snout roams the rooftops, looking for any sign of the ever-suspicious hot dogs.
When he spots the nefarious hot dogs, GreenSuper-Snout stuns them with his fuzzyhula skirt, traps them with his mega-smelling powers, or--when he’s had a long day and just wants to get the crime-fighting over with already--apprehends them with his bare torso.
Only when the hot dogs are safely behind bars does the heroic GreenSuper-Snout pause for a nap and a quick bite of apple pie and a Big Mac to refuel. The citizens of Mars may never realize just how fortunate they are to sleep safely under the creamy eye of our brave, humongous father.
happy birthday, babe. you are all kinds of super in our book.
folks, i have just two words for you today: ONE WEEK.
except actually i mean the just two words part metaphorically, as i am not all that famous for brevity.
next friday (yee-haw!) we’ll board that plane (that will take us to our next plane that will take us to the plane after that) which will jet the mister and me to east africa where we’ll get to MEET OUR SON.
i am about two percent panic, a hundred and twelve percent sheer joy. am i ready? i have no idea. but all that stuff is details-shmetails as long as we are on that plane.
i’ll be honest: there were a few times in the past eighteen months when i wasn’t sure this day would ever come. in my more sardonic moments, i envisioned creaking along in our nineties, popping in dentures to make another call just to check how that home study report was coming along. :)
one week is a beautiful thing.
elle has passing the time by purchasing a series of smallish gifts for her younger brother, one for every holiday we've spent apart. this here is an easter car (note the green, which clearly means easter). when you are six with a steady allowance and few expenses, you are free to get a head-start on spoiling your younger sibling.
happy friday, friends.
ps baby lily is healing beautifully! thank you for praying and sewing up a storm. :) please stop by lisa's blog to see updated photos.
we were skinned-knee kids in a townhouse complex redolent of neverland: swooping streets and monkey pod branches shading pathways that crawled like a secret.
there were so many times in those days. the time we tied hulking cardboard wings to our arms and barreled down the back hill over and over, so sure we’d had lift-off for a hovering moment. the times we stomped trails in the towering cane fields and shrieked from spiders, big as hands. the time nate doodled on the neighbor’s convertible with permanent marker (k, technically i was too young to remember that one, but i do recall hearing it retold a bunch). the time we slung mudballs at ms-across-the-street’s fence and then had to go back to scrub it clean. the time i fell from the playground platform and smacked my skull hard and nate took off at a dead-sprint for help.
really, i’m not sure i can pull a single frame from that era that doesn’t contain my older brother. he was constant and everywhere and larger than life, usually egging me on against my careful judgment. every now and again i try to imagine the girl i'd be, had i not grown up close in his churning wake. but i give up right quick because any version of me minus nate is too boring to fathom.
he tilted my childhood brave and funny and teeming with adventure, and prepped me well for life with four boys of my own.
so nate? i s’pose i owe you pretty big. thanks for being my very first bestie.
'tis that time of year when the weather makes a resolute turn, and tepid skies displace bouts of spitting snow. so on friday i headed out for my inaugural jog of the year, a scenario which ends, invariably, with me choking down a hefty slice of humble pie.
i seem to replay the same scene from this tragicomedy every year. you’d think i’d know the lines by now, but nope, it still surprises me. i’m coasting along, joints loose, breath easy, inwardly gushing at the opalescent sky and flowering shrub trees and how the evening sun sheens the whole neighborhood glittery soft. and then it happens: precisely at the one mile mark i am seized with the distinctly horrifying urge to toss my cookies for all the good townsfolk to see.
and so i wilt for a moment on the grass, pretend to stretch whilst fervently beseeching God to please keep those cookies where they belong lest i become the first person in the history of public exercise to die of acute embarrassment.
the sheriff rolls by in his brown car, surely wondering if he needs to bust out his resuscitation skills. it’s all i can do to smile and eek out a nod.
after the waves of nausea calm, i start back home at a far less perky pace, my muscles aching with a mix of humility and lactic acid and the reminder that this? is maybe what happens when one hasn’t run since last september. right. got it.
i have learned my lesson, and shall never again set out at such a jaunty clip first run of the season.
at least not until next year.
this week's thankfuls:
133. may. is. HERE. (t minus twelve days till we leave to meet our youngest) 134. possibility 135. snaking afternoon bikes along the driveway, sans jackets 136. the way em says 'tithes' 137. balmy walks in borrowed shoes with a friend who dreams in a familiar frequency 138. an email laden with affirmation 139. a God who gives us a part in this magnificent adventure