The lobby lights ablaze behind me turned the night outside to graphite, cold, invisible, even as I pressed my forehead to the glass to see which car Jenn had hurried to in the parking lot. My heart thundered, one thousand butterflies beating wings for that first, ultimate moment of all of this to hurry up and be over. We had waited two hours in that lobby, twelve months through the torrent of paperwork and questions that precede a foster-to-adopt license and, right then, the delivery of our children.
I had waited even longer than that, all the way back to the parking lot of BW3s when I wanted to kiss Jenn in the foggy dusk of our first date, all the way back to our first weekends of endless afternoon naps and rose-colored versions of each other.
The first door opened and I hurried to open the interior, locked door, overcome by the lick of February air and the sight of the little girl, slightly bow-legged with eyes like Hershey Kisses, clutching the finger of the social worker in front of her. I could not stop staring, counting her braids, some of them frayed and undone from her very long and frightening day. She wore pink and gray camouflage pajama bottoms and a puffy down coat with store tags sticking insensitively out the back. Her boots, dirty and too big, were pink, emblematic of innocence, softness, her need to be loved.
Jenn carried what appeared to be the social worker’s wash, an onion of quilts and afghans that, once upstairs in our tiny, hot apartment, we peeled to find the baby.
She curled into herself, soft, longish black curlicues warming her head beneath her hospital hat, her eyes hidden behind tightly clasped lids and eyelashes long enough for beads. She weighed six pounds, give or take an ounce. Neither one of us had ever held a baby that small.
My mom told me later that they smelled faintly like smoke. I couldn’t smell anything because I was so, so sick and, really, it didn’t matter. What mattered was they found their way to us.
The social worker stayed for twenty minutes, her own teenage daughter waiting impatiently in the parking lot. She provided an orange folder for each girl with scant information, best classified under ‘to the best of my knowledge’, and left.
The baby slept in the laundry basket that first night, no more than an hour at a time. The toddler cried and flailed and trembled and wailed before crashing from emotional exhaustion in the guest bed with Jenn.
That night was almost fourteen months ago.
It was yesterday and it was another lifetime altogether.
In fourteen months, they have become unequivocally ours, The Bean and The Bear. They are people we helped make, a 2-1/2 year old and a 14 month old with senses of humor and thoughts, personalities and quirks. It has been the hardest, most humbling fourteen months of our relationship and, though there were times we thought we wouldn’t make it, our bond strengthened over time. Now, though it is never, ever easy, we cannot imagine our lives without them — or each other.
Poetry befits the story of our family in more ways than I’ve been able to share publicly. Maybe someday, I’ll write it in its entirety. For now, I’ll share the simple poetry that exactly fourteen months to the date the girls came to live with us, we are adopting them.
For a few weeks now, we have been preparing the girls for Monday, April 4, 2011, repeating their names and telling them what will happen and who will be there. This has become a daily conversation with The Bear:
‘What is adoption?’
‘What is adoption?’
‘Ummmm…forever and ever!’
‘Yes!! Forever and ever with whom?’
‘Ummm….mama and mom and the Bean!’
The next time I post will be to introduce you to my reasons for waking up each day, my sweetest joys, even when their poop rolls out onto the floor, they’re eating paper, or they’re throwing shredded cheese across the room.