On this day in recent history (last year) we opened our front door to meet a little brown boy wearing a big, blue, dirty Gap winter coat, bright yellow t-shirt with the name of his pre-school plastered across it, and a recently acquired pair of hand-me-down tennis shoes from the CPS office he had spent the afternoon inhabiting.
The moments leading up to that car pulling in our driveway could be described as uncertain and scared on our behalf. Sara sat on our couch with a look on her face that said, “Ryan, you really don’t know what we’re getting into, do you?”. She was skeptical, nervous, worried, and flat out tired from a full day of working with teenagers that didn’t know how to show respect to an adult. I, on the other hand, wouldn’t be able to sit down if I had to. I paced our living room, glancing every 5 seconds or so out the front window to see if that car had arrived yet. We had no idea how this process would go down… what this child would be like, look like, feel like.
The car arrived… we looked at each other and debated if we should go meet them in the driveway or wait for the doorbell to ring. I’m pretty sure we debated long enough for them to get out of the car and begin making their way up our sidewalk before we opened the door and met them on the porch.
There he was… this miniature person… scared out of his mind… hiding behind the only constant he had during this crazy day that he had experienced. It was the case worker that pulled him out of school early.
She looked up at us with a gentle smile and informed us that he is really shy and had only said a handful of words to her throughout their day together.
He walked slowly through our front door… clinging to the caseworker’s leg. CPS had given him a few little cars to bring along and a black and orange blanket that had been handmade and donated to the system… some things for him to hold on to as his own. She also slipped us a small grocery bag with a pair of sock, undies, and an extra change of clothes… but, that was it.
There wasn’t much time for introductions… we quickly gathered around the living room and started to sign papers. It was probably at that point that Sara and I realized (but didn’t let on) that we had no clue what we were doing. We were signing papers… that’s something that adults with responsibility do. We were signing papers in order for this lady to be able to walk out our front doorwithout this child she brought in.
Meanwhile… this little guy had found a safe haven under the coffee table that all the signing was taking place on. He hid… clinging to the blanket and toys that he brought. He laid there and cried. As we tried to listen to the important things being discussed about the papers, we both were having to surpress the lumps in our throat that were being sent up to remind us that there was a real child under our coffee table with tears running down his cheeks. In a matter of minutes, it would be our responsibility to help that child make sense of everything that happened in the last 24 hours.
Within about 30 minutes, it was just the 3 of us. All the caseworkers had said their goodbyes and wished us luck. We had shown him his new room… pulled out our limited number of toys to try to entice him… but, our tokens were beginning to run out. Luckily, it was about to be dinner time and the only thing we could think of to take his mind off of things was to bring him to Gattitown.
Bear in mind… at this point Sara and I had yet to hear his voice. The only noises we knew from this little child were wimpers. At some point in the getting ready to go process, a word was released. I was so excited to hear his little country-ghetto voice appear.
And so we set out… placing a child for the first time in the newly bought booster seat that would now grace the back seat of the car that had seen me through college. This marked a new season in our life.
Looking back on that night is difficult for us. It’s difficult to remember the pain that such a small child felt. It is still incredibly hard for us to understand what it must have felt like to be picked up from school and driven in a car for an hour and a half to a cold, bright, florescent-lit office to sit for the remainder of the afternoon… and then to be dropped off in a home with two white people. No goodbye to the family that you had spent the last 5.5 years with… not even an explanation of why this all occurred.
Every few months, we are reminded of that afternoon when we dig to the bottom of his t-shirt drawer and find that worn down yellow t-shirt with the name of his hometown written on the front. It’s way too small for him to ever wear again. But, it won’t be thrown away. In between those faded threads are the only parts of his early life that he still has.
We hate that even still… as incredibly far as we’ve come with him… with the completely different child that resides in our home today… even still when the caseworkers drop by for a monthly visit, the fear in him shows its ugly face once more. The memories associated with caseworkers unravelling normal. We hurt for him. We pray that one day his life will feel secure and he will know that there will be no more unravelling in this home.
So, here we are… one year later. As this day approached, Sara and I went back and forth on whether this day should be celebrated or even talked about at all. We celebrate the fact that this blessing was sent to us one year ago. We celebrate the incredible progress he has made in this past year. But, we have decided that the celebration will be between mom and dad. To expect him to celebrate such a horrific day would be cruel and unusual.
We look forward to being able to celebrate a different day very soon… the day when his adoption becomes final and his name reflects ours. We pray that day will be one filled with amazing memories that we can all look back on and truly celebrate.