The surreal took on flesh today in the form of 30 little arms and hands wrapping tightly around me as we climbed out of the car which drove us across town to the Transition House. My breath taken away by LOVE incarnate. Theyâ€™d never seen my face. Theyâ€™d never heard my voice. And they ran to me like I was their own. The littlest ones all wanting to be held tightly in my arms. The older ones introducing themselves with big smiles spanning their beautiful faces. â€œHi, Iâ€™m Hannah! Hi, my name is Bono! (yes, Anne, I finally met him:) My mother is coming to get me tomorrow!â€ And Bazuna. As the names rolled off their tongues and the little ones full in arms squoze tightly, I rejoiced and felt relief that theyâ€™ve all been chosen. I donâ€™t know how Iâ€™d leave one behind. After at least 10 minutes of the most amazing greeting one could enjoy, I asked if someone could lead us to Meseret and Kamise. A 14 year-old teenage boy immediately darted off to find them. We climbed a flight of stairs to the small living area, where three 3 year-olds clamored for my lap. A 41-year old heart melting into puddles. Though Iâ€™m enveloped in reality, this moment is still so surreal. After a good long 10 more minutes, our girls finally appeared. Absolutely stunning. In brightly colored headbands, their hair just right, smiles kissed with a taste of apprehension. I exclaimed their names and beckoned them to come. I just needed to find room on my love-occupied lap to embrace them. One at a time they came. The moment was stunning, surreal, and holy. So very holy. As Dennis clicked the camera, I laughed, I smiled wide and some tears filled my eyes. Could these two as dark as the night really be mine in 24 hrs?
The kids were hailed down the back stairs, through a corridor where one of the nannies was changing a diaper and spraying down the boyâ€™s hiney a little while earlier, to a long column of little plastic tables and chairs. About 16 children filled the chairs, and that wasnâ€™t all of them, and patientlyâ€¦.and I mean patiently, waited the long 15 minutes for every child to be served before lifting a finger toward the food filling their platesâ€¦and I mean filling their plates (it was surprising and relieving). There was a short exchange between a nanny and Meseret and suddenly, Meseret was on her feet with head bowed low giving thanks to the Creator of the Universe, for the lavish meal before them. Kamise and another girl bowed and fully covered faces with their little hands. There was no entitlement. Only gratitude. Then they dug inâ€¦why bother with utensilsâ€¦to Ethiopians theyâ€™re a side note. They make the most of their soft, fermented Injhira flatbread and get down and dirty. My boys would love dining hereâ€¦especially Keegan, who simply finds utensils to be a nuisance.
After a long lunch, we were spoiled to be the couriers for our adoption agent, who had sent three large duffle bags with us, stuffed with new comforters and blankets for the children. As they waited patiently for me to offer them a blanket, undeserving, I was in awe. No demand. â€œThank you! Thank you! Thank you!â€ as little arms squoze tightly my neck once again and kisses adorned my cheeks. In a foreign land where I canâ€™t give a long explanation about who really provided the blankets, I simply enjoyed receiving the love, as if I was the one who brought them this gift. Each child rushed to his/her bed and neatly made it with his/ her new blanket. Each childâ€™s bed was immaculate, from the 5 year- old to the 14 year-old boys. The little ones just wrapped themselves tight.
We took our girls, kissed every child on both cheeks, squoze them as tightly as possible, and drove away. Again, thankful theyâ€™d all been chosen. We rode through people-laden streets, bustling with activity. A vast area of sights, one of which was an open butcher market. Livestock filled a tent, awaiting the slaughter. Another empty lot was full of livestock, seemingly hanging out in the middle of town. Guess they didnâ€™t want to miss the action and nobody was surprised they were there. I gave the girls a piece of gum. Their faces lit up. Meseret let her wrapper fly out the window and the girls giggled. Kamise handed hers over to the same fate and they giggled some more. I decided to let the â€œproper-trash distributionâ€ training wait until they come home. I was simply delighting seeing how they do life in Ethiopia.
Upon arriving out our guest house, which our agent coined â€œglorified campingâ€ (and Iâ€™d have to agree), the beautiful weather beckoned us outdoors. I became more endeared to them when I ripped out the huge bubble wand. We kicked and popped bubbles till it ran dry, and then some. Next, we walked to the supermarket. It felt like all eyes were on this white couple with the stunning black two. Some asked questions. Little boys and girls on the streets begged us for a coin. When we gave them to a few, their eyes lit up like Christmas morning. And the girls devoured their treats the same. We briefly visited the arcade, new to the locals. After the girlsâ€™ introductory game of air hockey, weâ€™d had enough stimulation and headed home.
Craft time came next. Watercolor painting, coloring, pasting, cutting, etc etc etc. Weâ€™ve got some artistic ones on our hands. Anne and Madisonâ€¦ready those canvases. Slowly we were connecting, yet still the language barrier kept the chasm between us. After dinner, it was bath time, but thereâ€™s no plug for the tub and I likely wouldnâ€™t have my family members soaking in that tub, so I held the adjustable shower nozzle for them as they scrubbed their little bodies down. When I held it over their shoulders they squealed and giggled and shoved it away. Theyâ€™d never had a real shower. They couldnâ€™t handle the stimulation of the water falling on them. One of many firsts. I howled.
The highlight of my day came after dinner. Dennis went to find an internet connection and I brought out the books from a friend into which we can record our voices reading to them. To say they were enthralled is an understatement. They opened the first page to Keeganâ€™s monotone version of â€œIâ€™ll always love you.â€ I howled. They giggled. I whipped out the photos on my phone and showed them Keegan. After some time, Meseret began mimicking the instructional recording, â€œAfter the beep, begin recordingâ€¦.â€ She was speaking English! So kicked off a night of the three of us cuddled on the couch, them inching closer to me with every family video we viewed on my phone. And every video we created of us on my phone. Singing happy birthday to Keegan (because that was one of the videos on my phone), mimicking Coleâ€™s I love you, listening to Madisonâ€™s tribute for Keegs bday and on and on we went. They pushing the play button. I pushing record. As they watched the photo of the ocean come to life in video, Meseret gasped. It took her breath away, just like it does mine every time I see it. The three of us knelt beside the concrete-like mattress, and I thanked our Father for this day. For two precious Ethiopian daughters. I sang â€œJesus loves meâ€ to them and Meseeret followed with her lovely thick accentâ€¦I gotta learn to roll my RRRRRâ€™s like that.
In a dayâ€™s time, I canâ€™t imagine our family complete without them.
Only the author of the greatest story on earth could have authored such a narrative for our lives. I certainly wouldnâ€™t have conjured this one upâ€¦too risky for even this cliff jumper.
At 9:00 am tomorrow morning, we will take Meseret (Kamise is too young to join us in court) and appear before a judge, pledging to love and care for these precious girls as long as the Lover of our Souls would allow. The journey still feels radical. It still feels surreal. And I donâ€™t think I ever want to go back to any other way.