Anne Notations

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Un dia muy feliz

Andrés (4), Anne, and Melinda (6 weeks) at the orphanage in Bogotá, Colombia, January 1991

Just past midnight on March 1, 1991, my stepdaughter Leslie and I watched a plane land at Green Airport in Warwick. The intensity of our anticipation was such that we could scarcely breathe.

Moments later, two small brown boys scampered toward us in the jetway, and a very tired Michael followed with a baby girl asleep on his chest in a Snugli carrier. Our new children were home from Colombia, where Michael had returned alone to complete their legal adoptions, and our lives had changed forever. Eighteen months later, I gave birth to our son Kevin.

I am not ready to write here (nor may I ever be) about the second boy from Colombia, Andrés's older biological brother, our troubled, beautiful son who was able to stay in our household for only five years. Three times that many years have gone by since we embarked on full-time parenthood with our children from South America.

Today we celebrated two occasions: Andrés's 20th birthday, which is actually tomorrow; and "Homecoming Day," our annual celebration of the arrival I've just described. Some adoptive parents call these anniversaries "Gotcha Day," but with due respect to friends who use the term, it has always made me cringe, evoking an image of the calculating fox in the old children's story snapping up the gingerbread man midstream. So we chose Homecoming Day, an entirely literal name and one that our sports-loving kids seem to appreciate.

It was Andrés who reminded me earlier this month that we'd reached our 15th homecoming anniversary. I was pleased that he knew the number. Homecoming must mean something important to him, must carry a dear significance that he mostly keeps hidden beneath his wisecracking bravado. For me, the adoption of our children was nothing less than the most profound turning-point of my life. I remember looking down at six-week-old baby Melinda on my bed in Clara's Bogotá apartment during our first trip in January 1991, stroking her raven hair, and shivering with a sudden epiphany: I was not only in love, but I was owned ... forever. A child now had my heart locked in a gilded cage, and "I" would never just be about me again. "I" had become synonymous with "we" in a way even marriage had not achieved.

Andrés opening birthday gifts

Melinda in her church clothes

So here we are, la familia, in 2006. Andrés is no longer a teenager, but a man with a job, career ambitions, an apartment, and a future. Melinda, at 15, is becoming more poised and independent by the day; serious about schoolwork, she fizzes with good nature and wit. Kevin is fully their little brother. Even though our three children are not related biologically, their love for one another is obvious to all who see them.

I can't help rolling my eyes when I hear the cliché "Blood is thicker than water." In our family, love is stronger than blood.


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