Before I get rolling here, I just wanted to also say thanks to all of you for swinging by our little corner of the internet. Really, knowing that we aren't just blogging into thin air is a huge motivator for both of us to keep posting. And, as with any conversation, it helps to know who your audience is, so thanks to all of you who have and/or will post comments. We really use this blog as our lifeline back into the world since we have to be so inwardly focused during this stage of the game.
For Chris and I, when the possibility of an Ethiopian adoption presented itself, it didn't take us long to become emotionally prepared to be a mixed race family. We were ready for the gawking, the questions, the whispers and fake smiles, the whatever. We were cool with it, our families and friends were cool with it, let the rest of the world think what it may.
Here are three situations I was not prepared for:
While we were in Ethiopia we met the husband of our primary contact person, a man who I realized very quickly was worthy of my respect. Selfless, observant, engaging but not annoying, good with kids, that kind of thing. At one point he pulled me aside and said that chances were good that his life would also involve adopting an older child. He then told me that he found the way I treated Habtamu during one of his (practice) episodes, and this is the word he used, inspiring. I laughed out loud and couldn't make eye contact after that. All I had done was drag my crying son into the hallway to chill out. This was our first week together and I was totally in survival mode. The last thing I wanted was to be seen by anyone. I thanked him and somehow managed not to tell him to get a real role model.
When we were on the way home and in between flights in Washington DC, H threw a fit (not figuratively) when he found out we had to walk to another gate. So my father and I each grabbed a hand and dragged the boy halfway across the terminal. When we got to the gate, which of course was packed, we went straight for the far corner with no seats, where I planned to corral him until he settled down. It's all kind of a blur, but I don't remember it taking very long before he actually fell asleep. However, I sat there beside him for the next hour in case he woke up. Meanwhile, the guy sitting directly in front of me was wearing fatigues and an "Airborne" patch. Now, on the flight to Ethiopia I had read the memoirs of Dick Winters of the 101st Airborne division from WWII, so I was all patriotized (if that's a word) and star-struck having a real live paratrooper sitting in front of me. I wanted to say something, but what do you say to a guy who is willing to dive out of a plane for his country? Keep up the good work? Anyway, I had a full hour to let my imagination run wild of how ridiculously brave this man must be and how lame anything I could muster up to say would sound. So as the plane is boarding, HE turns to ME, and says, "You've got a long road ahead of you. Hang in there. I have a lot of respect for people who do what you're doing." Wait what? Did he just...? But he's the one... I did verbally fumble out something about the book I read and that I admired his commitment to his country, which was really just a long way of saying, "Yeah, you too!" And I thought to myself, holy crap, here's a guy who has been trained to jump out of aircraft and remain clear headed while completely surrounded by the enemy... maybe that really isn't that much different than parenthood, except I was never issued even a jump-knife.
Last Friday, I ran into some folks I know from the Karaoke bar. These "kids" are way out of my life-style league (I'm talking major piercings and face tattoos here) but since I occasionally attempt to sing 90's grunge songs, they know me. Anyway, they had seen me and the family out walking around and asked about how the adoption was going. I thought they were just being polite at first but I think they were genuinely interested as I got into more detail about the trip and how quickly life has changed for all of us. "Dude, you've got some serious stones to do what you're doing," one of them said. The others smiled and nodded. I asked him to repeat himself because surely I missed something. But I hadn't. A guy with a neck tattoo and something the size of a nickel through his lower lip just complimented the size of my testicles. What's the proper way to respond to that? I laughed and said, "Yeah, when I'm not singing I do things like that just to impress the cool kids."
So I guess what I'm saying is, Chris and I didn't choose this life path to gain notoriety, we did it because it's the right thing for us to do. The amount of respect and support has been staggering, unexpected, and thoroughly appreciated, though I know many of you are itching to do more. I can't wait for the children to really grasp how many people are reading their stories, waiting to help, and cheering them on.
Thank you for being part of our story.