Friday, April 2, 2010


Through this tumultuous year, the adoption, the move to San Jose, I've been wrestling with the idea of fate. Or maybe the idea of faith. Why things happen the way they do, if they happen for a reason and if, as the optimist drowning inside me still hopes, it's all for the best.

I'm always looking for signs, this year and every year. Not necessarily of God. I don't believe in the bearded man in the white robe, and though I'm sure Jesus was a wise and dynamic leader, all that rising from the dead stuff sounds, to this agnostic ear, like a ghost story. I do, however, in my Northern California way, believe in some kind of divine presence. Some force that unites us. And I believe that sometimes that force makes itself known.

When we were in the first stages of weighing the adoption question, Ben and I went to an informational meeting of the adoption agency we would eventually use. We arrived early and sat in the parking lot talking about this great big idea. I reclined my seat and watched the sky. We were under sodium lights, the windshield was none too clean and the sky was almost completely cloudy. There was just a tiny hole through which the black night was revealed. As I sat there and contemplated the specter of this new child, out of this bit of black streaked a bold, bright, shooting star. As we pondered this huge question, it seemed that we got a big yes.

Months later, Ben had a bit of a crisis of faith. Up until that point, I had been the strong advocate for a third child. Ben had been the voice of reason. And that night, again, he aired his fears. Could we handle another child when often it felt like we could barely handle the two we had. Was it right to bring a child of color into lily-white Marin. Should we really consider adopting a toddler, knowing all we did about attachment disorder. Did we want to risk fucking up this tremendously good thing that was our family.

This time, instead of trying to argue him out of it, I had a moment of zen. I said I thought we would get the child we were supposed to get, if we were supposed to get one. That if it wasn't meant to be, we'd know it.

A few minutes later, I turned on the radio. Immediately, the clipped voice of the BBC announced that the world food shortage was beginning to affect Ethiopia. That millions of orphans were facing the possibility of famine. Up to that point in the adoption process, I'd never heard about Ethiopia in the news. My earlier calm was shattered. The weeping started like flipping a switch. I told Ben I felt like our kid was tapping us on the shoulder.

While we were waiting for our referral of a child, the four of us talked a lot about who this kid (we assumed a boy) might be and what he might have been through. We often wondered what he might be doing at any particular moment. One night we all held hands, closed our eyes and pictured him. Then we reported to each other what we had seen.

Lana saw a little boy who was upset because he didn't have any toys. Mae also pictured a sad little creature. We'd been talking about how he might not have enough to eat, how he might not have a mom, so it made sense that this was how the girls interpreted it. Ben saw a boy with a fuzzy Afro against a white background. He was peaceful.

I saw a baby. He was maybe nine months old. He was wrapped in a blanket and held in a woman's arms. He was beautiful and clearly a strong spirit. He didn't seem sad or scared. Just watchful.

When I think of that vision now, it seems exactly like Mihiretu. It seems like I could see him. That maybe Ben and the girls saw him, too.

Looking back on all of those flashes of clarity, of feeling touched by him, by Mihiretu in particular, is comforting. It seems like maybe there was something larger at work. Larger than Ben, larger than me. That this adoption, which before we brought Mihiretu home, anyway, sometimes seemed like such a weird idea, is more than an outgrowth of my will. That Mihiretu is meant to be with us as much as those girls that grew in my belly, that I knew from the instant of conception. With each day that passes, I'm more sure of that.

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