Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Big Adoption Series - Chapter 5

The next month was a blur, but it passed (they always do) and we were one month closer to our son, rumored to arrive sometime in October.

The winding down of July found me with a persistent case of ants in my britches and a cumbersome black suitcase on wheels, bound for sunny California. I looked forward to the 10-day trip which would begin with an intense work conference and float into a four-day stretch of relaxation and fun with my little sister. I knew the trip would help fill the days and provide one last free-and-easy hurrah. It was perfect timing.

Except for the part that estimated time frames are prone to surprise.

All my life, I have relished a good surprise. I fancy myself one who is not easily surprised, but I've been wrong before.

The Hollywood conference left me bedraggled and frazzled and above all - exhausted, but bluer skies were on the horizon as my sister Keisha scooped me up and we set off to wind our way up the coast to Modesto. Half-way to our destination, we stopped for an afternoon in San Luis Obispo. We filled a bag with fresh fruit from a road-side farmers' market and guilty pleasure magazines and took to the beach.

Keisha's phone rang mid-sunning and as she scrambled to hand it over to me, the ants morphed first into butterflies and then into seagulls. They clanged around in my belly and sailed through my heart.

Calvin was coming early. I was scheduled to fly into South Bend on Tuesday evening. We were to pick him up in Detroit on Wednesday morning.

Momentary thoughts of bailing early were scrapped on account of the fact that I was looking forward to my time with Keisha and there wasn't anything last-minute that Cory couldn't take care of.

The next four days were blissful. Pure delight. Our days were spent doing the very things that most sisters long to do together. We ate well, slept in, shopped for little boy clothes, listened to music, solved some of the large problems of the world. Keisha's world became my own, if only for a while. Her friends adopted me and they all leaned in to hear about our little guy, packing his bags a world away.

After teary goodbyes, I boarded the plane with visions of almond-eyes fixed in my heart.

Rounding the corner to the departing gate at my final connection in Cincinnati, I saw hordes of people and double-backed lines. The flight was canceled. Not delayed, canceled. And, it was the last flight out of the night.

I took my own place in line, feeling sure that everything would be fine. Up at the desk, hope took a nose-dive. I cried. I pleaded with the airline rep. She shook her head and muttered apologies that didn't feel sincere enough for the weight of my fears.

My first, most critical act of motherhood was about to define me as a dismal failure. I would not be there.

So I cried, then I cried some more.

Through my tears I saw an angel in standard-issue polyester/cotton blend pants and a criss-cross tie coming my way. She took me by the hand and walked me to the rental car shuttle. She told me to get in the car and drive like nothing else mattered, because nothing else did matter. The skies were black as I latched the seatbelt and drove that long stretch of highway, headed straight for my childhood home. I stopped just long enough for my mom to climb in, behind the steering wheel, and I dozed off and on for the next three hours.

My head hit the pillow at 2 a.m. The alarm clock went off four hours later.

If anything could make me into a temporary morning person, it's knowing that my entire future hinged upon it.

I wore a skirt and my brown wooden beads, wanting to impress my boy. (Who's to say that he wouldn't be exceptionally attuned to aesthetics?)

We arrived at the airport and each step felt like an inching toward a new, better world.

We met another family waiting for the arrival of their son. We waited. We stewed.

Finally, the doors opened and we watched like a hawk. Every child's distant cry bloomed in my heart then shriveled as tufts of blond hair poked out of the strollers whizzing past.

Before long, the steady stream of passengers became a trickle, and then, it was altogether gone.

We waited nervously, and then...

Two little Asian boys slipped through the gate. I marveled at his realness. I listened to his cries.

The social worker carried him to me as I brushed a brand new kind of tears from my cheeks. She made my wobbly self sit down, and she handed me my son.

"Hi Calvin. I'm your Mommy."

It didn't take long for new fears to sink in. I did not know what to do with this child. I was sure I would do it wrong. Those who helped to get us to this point were conspicuously absent as we simply left the building with him. The "working-towards" was over. The page had turned to a new chapter.

We were on our own. We were a family.

We buckled him into his car seat and pointed ourselves toward home. Over the four-hour drive, we changed his diaper and his clothes, gave him bottles, introduced him to new toys and to us.

He slept only for a few moments.

Mostly, he looked at us with eyes that seemed to grasp the gravity, the newness, the miracle. He searched us and found us searching back. His little fists were clasped in anxiousness; his face, a sea of calm.

Pulling up to our home, under skies dark again, I hardly recognized the self I had become. I felt different. I walked different. I was sure that I looked different, and not just for the fact that somewhere between holding him for the first and leaving the airport, my brown beaded necklace had disappeared forever.

Cory carried his first son into our home and we spent hours that night memorizing him.

The next day would mark a new beginning, waking together and learning to navigate our days with our child who had made the trip of a lifetime to call us his own.

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Join me here next Tuesday for Big Adoption Series - Chapter 6

(To catch up on Chapters 1-4, click here and start from the bottom.)