I just mailed away a decade of my life, so pardon me, please, if I get a little teary-eyed.
About 200 years ago (or so it feels), I adopted a little boy. Not a baby, mind you, but a little boy. His background was horrific. I'd been married and childless for eight long, endless years. I'd been foster parent to three different boys who were not available for adoption, and I was the oldest of a huge blended nest, so having a child I could keep and never have to let go of was a HUGE goal in my life. More important than my career. More important than my hobbies. I wanted to be a mom.
That first adoption took five friggin' years. Giving birth doesn't take that long! I always told interested/curious people I did five years of hard labor. I still stand by that claim. And then some. :)
By the time the adoption was finally finalized, I was ready for another kid. I wanted a little girl. My then-husband wasn't too keen on that idea, and he was growing more and more disgruntled with not being the center of my attention anymore, among other opposites-attract issues, as well as more than a few adopted-special-needs-child challenges.
One Sunday, my bishop gave me a newspaper clipping of a Wednesday's child he thought would be the perfect addition to my family. This little girl was nearly a perfect match for the little boy I'd just adopted. They'd had almost identical upbringings, and they had the same interests and challenges. I thought it would be a slam dunk because I already had so much related experience and knew into what kind of unsanitary, stinky mess I'd be plunging.
The better half, who'd been ditching church for several months, impolitely declined when presented with the opportunity.
So I let go of the dream. For one whole day.
The next day at work, TWO co-workers each individually brought me the very same newspaper clipping, convinced this little girl, who'd been in the system far too long, would be the perfect addition to my family.
Without informing the better half, I prepared another application and family history and sent it off to the distant county of the little girl in need of home and love. Imagine my surprise when three months later, I was informed we were among the top three pre-adoptive families. Would I like to schedule a visit with this little girl, more than 200 miles away?
I bravely approached the better half and presented him with the good news. He agreed to the meeting. I was stunned. Our adopted son was overjoyed.
The following weekend, we drove to the faraway tiny village to have lunch with the little girl and her caseworker. The girl and my son hit it off immediately, and I felt a potential bond, even though most foster kids have difficulty bonding. Even the better half thought she was a neat little kid.
We proceeded with the necessary paperwork and contacted a caseworker in our own county about a home study, which would be required if the adoption were to happen. About three weeks later, we were informed one of the other two families had been chosen, thank you very much for your time and interest, we have other kids in which you might be interested...
I was crushed, and so was my son, but things at home had become worse. The better half had decided to split the halves permanently. At the time, I thought perhaps that was the reason this new adoption opportunity didn't materialize. It wasn't meant to be, even though it seemed from the beginning to be exactly what was supposed to happen.
I got a new job in another town and commuted for a couple of weeks until I found an affordable apartment big enough for me and my adopted son. A few weeks after the move, I was contacted again by the distant caseworker. The chosen family had received orders to be shipped out of the country for three years. Was I still interested?
New job, new living arrangement, new life, new everything... sure! Why not? Once again, I couldn't stop thinking about how this little girl had every indication she absolutely was meant to be a member of my family.
I had to restart the entire application and home study process, and I had to get a new caseworker in my new county, who turned out to be the very best one I've ever worked with. In hindsight, everything was worth it. One year later, we were family! It was amazing! Everything was so smooth and so quick!
Kids with histories have baggage. I'd trained extensively to be able to manage all the different bags, but every once in a while, a new suitcase would hit me upside the head and sometimes even take me off my feet for a day or two. Yet there were plenty of beautiful moments, too. We literally had a Disneyland life for the first five years.
Then teenage hormones and peer pressure and school bullies set in, and life was one visit to the police station after another. Therapy appointments were non-stop. The pattern seemed unending. I'd previously battled depression, especially regarding the whole childless thing, but my past experience didn't help me wade the deep, murky waters of troubled high-risk teens.
Eventually, the adopted boy took a permanent unauthorized field trip, and seven months later, the adopted girl followed suit.
The girl, being younger than the boy, hadn't earned the coming-of-age freedom he gained in spreading his wings and learning to fly. She wound up in residential treatment, and I had to sell my home to pay for it. She spent the rest of her teen years in treatment, and I spent the next decade paying the piper, so to speak.
In packing and downsizing, I loaded armfuls of memories into two separate boxes, one for him and one for her. I couldn't bring myself to throw away the photos, trophies, awards, memorabilia, souvenirs, school papers, CDs, unfinished crafts, first pairs of jeans, first baseball uniforms and the notes/cards/letters.
While I was trying to get my feet back on the ground, both financially and emotionally, I met The Lizard. He very easily swept me off my feet and didn't disappear after popping THE question: "So, have any kids?"
He accompanied me when I had the rare opportunity to have lunch or dinner with the boy, and he'd go with me to counseling sessions with the girl. Much later, he confessed the girl scared the daylights out of him and made him wonder if he was doing the right thing in marrying me. He's been a trooper. And a keeper. He's the bright spot in my life!
About 100 years later (or so it feels), the boy finally found some roots, and I was able to present him with his box. Guys typically aren't as sentimental as girls, but I could tell there were a few items in his box that touched him.
This year, the girl may actually be finding roots of her own. I hope she doesn't transplant again. Takes too long for new roots to set. For the time being, she was ready for her box.
I included the quilt I made from fabric she cut up as a child because she has a little bundle of her own now.
Going through that box of stuff that hadn't been opened or even touched in what feels like a lifetime brought back a storm of memories, both dark thunderclouds and rainbows. There was a Star Trek convention (StarCon) key chain with her name on it. There was an Alaskan license plate with her name on it. Her journal was in there. I couldn't help but open it and page through a bit. The story she wrote (with my help) about a dream she'd had and entered in her elementary school's book fair was in the box. Her Harry Potter books on CD were in there. Her Backstreet Boys CD was in there. Photos I took of her and retouched during Makeover Madness were in there.
And all these years, you've wondered why I got involved in Makeover Madness...
As I taped up the box and applied the mailing label, I felt as if I literally was closing a chapter in my life. Will she feel as if she is opening a new chapter in her life when she opens it? Will the memories tenderly packaged inside help her step back into the role of daughter, as well as mother?
I peek out the window and see yet another dazzling rainbow.
I hope there is gold at both ends of this one.