Last week in Ava's second grade class, they did a project where the kids had to make an acrostic with their names. She hadn't mentioned it and as I walking Eden to class, I saw them hung along the hallway. I looked for Ava's and found it:
A- adopting a brother from Ethiopia
I could have fallen to my knees. We have planned to adopt for so long, she's been hearing about it since she was 4. We began this process of adopting from Ethiopia in April of 2007, two months after her 4th birthday. This journey is in her like it's in us. So much that when she had to write a description of herself, it came up first, even before "awesome". I've wondered over the past almost-year since we were matched with Yonas, what the girls' internal experience of the process has been. Of course we talk about it a lot. We read books. They act out adoption and transracial families stories in their play.
I know what it means to wait for a child. But what does it mean to wait for a brother? What does it mean for the finish line to keep moving when you are 7, or 5, or 3?
I know the toll that it has had on me, all the ways I've been changed on this journey that has been so much harder and sweeter, so much more challenging and beautiful than I thought possible when we began. But I won't ever know all the ways it has changed my daughters.
I won't know who Ava would have been without this as part of her life's journey. I like to think that it has made her life richer and fuller. That it has lent a sweet expectancy to her middle childhood that it wouldn't have otherwise had. But I also know it has given them all a more distracted, irritable mother than they would have otherwise had.
We are all in it together. Including Yonas, 8000 miles away, who has borne more than all of us put together. We are all in it together, and have been from the start, because that's how families are. We drag each other along our paths, chosen and not chosen. We stand beside each other, we fight together, we make our clumsy way on this crazy ride together and hope we're all holding hands tightly enough to still be standing at the end.
Ava can't realize now how choosing to label herself through the lens of this adoption felt like an act of solidarity to me. How it opened my heart to her, how I wanted to cry, "Yes! Yes! I'm A- adopting a son from Ethiopia, Ashley!!". She doesn't know she reached across the cosmic thread to me, not as a daughter to her mother, but from one human to another struggling one. She doesn't know she reached across to Yonas that day too. Neither does he. But they will someday. Because we're a family.
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