This three part series chronicles the 3 day anniversary of bringing our children home from Haiti. We will now call each day “Family Day”. We used to call it “Adoption Day”, a name I thought far more respectful and far less creepy and evocative of human trafficking than “Gotcha’ Day”. After further reflection, though, and a brilliant essay by a young adoptee, I realized that we don’t so much celebrate an anniversary as we reflect upon adoption as a whole: every member of the adoption triad, my kid’s home country, culture, etc. Therefore, as Sophie did in this piece from Huff Po, we are now calling those days “Family Day”.
What follows in this series are my personal reflections on the first 3 days, rather than the story of my kids.
It was a day like any other, as much as any day when one awaits that call can be ordinary.
It was hot. I remember sprawling out on the couch, hoping the distance between my limbs might keep them cool and dry. I’d forced my long, curly hair into a single ponytail on the very top of my head, needing it to be as far away from my face and neck as possible. I wore grey work-out shorts and a red tank top in an attempt to motivate myself to exercise at some point that day.
I saw the mail truck pass the window out of the corner of my eye and felt annoyed that I was suddenly compelled to get up and retrieve what would certainly be a stack of junk. With e-mail having become so popular, we rarely received anything but bills and advertisements anymore, except the occasional hand-written note from Nana L, little oases in a correspondence desert. Nevertheless, I still somehow held out hope for real letters from all the people we’d left behind when we moved from California three years before — so off I trapsed, lethargic and sticky, to the mailbox.
As often occurred on a hot day, I had to tug the jammed mailbox door open. I reached in and pulled out the biggest item, a 5 X 7 manilla envelope. Before even confirming the return address, the very sight of it forced a lump in my throat. It would be from the orphanage where the children were living. It, I already knew, would be pictures of the kids and an update on the orphanage in general.
Normally, any parent waiting to adopt would be thrilled by such a package. I’d been at this long enough, though to know that it could only mean one thing — the adoption was taking still longer than expected — again — and the pictures were our consolation.
I ripped open the envelope, leaving an electric bill and a post card promising I’d won a million dollars in the still open mailbox. My lower lip quivered and my shoulders fell as I took laborious, disconsolate steps back to the house, tears suddenly dripping onto a picture of the kids. It was one I myself had taken five months before, of the kids, one feeding the other, just outside one of the orphanage bungalows. I had sent a copy to Barbara upon returning home. She must have found it and forgotten its origin. She probably sent it to keep my spirits up, but it was little more than a stark reminder that the many months we’d waited to bring them home, the thousands of dollars stolen by the first, American-run orphanage, and the three trips taken to move them to an honest orphanage and bond as quickly as possible were not yet over.
By the time I opened the door to the house, my eyes were so blurred I could neither see the accompanying letter I held in my hand nor the red, blinking light on the answering machine indicating that a message had been left while I was outside. I dropped the envelope and all its contents on the small table just inside the door and slogged into the bathroom to splash water on my face. I stared into the mirror a moment, obscenities racing through my head.
“F*ck! F*ck! F*ck!” I uttered through a towel as I patted on my face dry, and then louder, “F*CK! F*CK! SH*T! F*CKING F*CK!” I angrily threw the towel into the sink and stomped to the kitchen to get a glass of water, the only thing I could think to do at that moment. I lifted a dirty glass from the sink and filled it twice, first too quickly with hot water and then slowly, allowing the gentle, steady stream of water to calm me a bit.
Absent-mindedly, I glanced around the room, searching for some unknown source of solace. Spotting the blinking light on the answering machine, I tapped the play button, hoping to hear my husband’s voice on the other side.
“Hey!” A brash, urgent voice shouted at me through the machine. “You’d better get yourselves down here and pick up your kids!”