Wednesday, July 30, 2008

One Year

First plane experience in Aug. 2007 (below) and second in July 2008 (top). Helpful hint for fellow travelers with wee ones ... the Baby Bjorn works wonders for in-lap babies and toddlers during long (or short) flights. Mihret can still fit in hers!
Back in the 70s, when international adoption was a little different, it was easy to figure out what your Gotcha Day was.

After all, back then, you'd get a call, and go to an airport, and someone there would hand you your child and that would be it. Gotcha Day!

But I remember, very vividly, one of the other parents in Ethiopia turning to everyone at the breakfast table, and remarking, "So... what are YOU guys using as your gotcha day?"

None of us knew.

Our timeline was like this:

On the 26th of July, Kara and I got on a plane.

On the 28th of July, Kara and I landed in Ethiopia and met our daughter.

On the 1st of August, there was a little ceremony and our children were handed over to us permanently. Rather than going back to the guest house childless, we all returned with a small person who was ours forever.

On the 4th of August, we all landed back home in the States.

I suppose, technically, that the 1st of August is the "right" day, but you could make a case for any day in that long wonderful week.

Much like this time last year, we spent a lot of time in airports just recently. Kara's side of the family has an annual reunion, and while we opt to drive there (there being Pennsylvania) most years, this time around we decided to take some of our hard-earned money and scarce vacation time and combine them in some way.

And so it was that while last year found us on plane on July 26th, this year that same day found us at the family reunion we missed last year.

It was an amazing day, and an amazing chance to show off our child, who will have been in our care a year on Friday, August 1st. She was shy, yes, but smart and smiling and wonderful, too.

She played catch with Papa.

She went for a walk with Nona.

And in general she was just her wonderful self.

The next day, we were all on a plane home again.

In a lot of ways, the flight home on the 27th of July didn't mirror our trip home last year. The trip back from Ethiopia was long and exhausting, with many hours in the air and a small child who barely knew us. This time we had two short flights, each about an hour, and we've been her parents for months.

And she was, of course, so different then. She had a lot of hair for her age at the time, but a year later her curls stretch out to nearly six inches worth of hair. She walks and talks and in general is just more like a real live adult person every day now.

Whereas then she was just a tiny thing that couldn't take care of herself at all.

It was our Lifebook DVD, and the second flight that did me in on Sunday. Just a day shy of a year, we watched ourselves meet our little girl for the very first time, and there, on the screen, I was crying. I was so happy.

And I still am. So I cried again.

As our second plane headed for the sky on Sunday, Mihret and I looked down over the city below us. Kara sat quietly on my right.

In the moment, I realized that in one important way, our trip home from vacation and our trip home from Ethiopia were exactly the same.

We were going home.

It's been a long year - with new jobs, family leave, medical problems, and friends and family all getting older - and some of them who aren't with us any more.

As I sat in my seat I felt my eyes well up - and then spill over.

The flight wore on, and Mihret played peek with us, and played with her Lion King doll, and read a book, and told us that bunnies go "Hop, hop!" And I eventually got myself under control.

We've been a family a whole year. What could be more wonderful.



Kay Bratt said...

Now that is an awesome post.


Kamie said...

Really wonderful post Josh.
Happy Gotcha Anniversary.

Melissa said...

I can not believe it has been a year already. What a GREAT family you make!!