I started writing this about a month ago and almost didn’t post it due to potential loss of timeliness. Upon considering the irony of that, here it is:
|First of two birthday parties with family.|
“I five now? I five?” This is how my son woke up and woke me up every morning for the past several months.
“Not yet,” I’d say back to him then and multiple times throughout the day when he asked.
My husband was more specific: “Nope, not for 44 more days.”
It has been this asking, my husband’s response, and the realities behind abandonment that have had me reflecting and grieving a bit these past few months.
. . . . .
One year and a couple months ago I ordered a birthday care package to be sent to my would-be son at his orphanage. (Adoptive parents generally can’t send things directly to the orphanage, so a couple small in-country businesses have stepped in to fill that gap. They also translate messages.) I ordered a toy plane to help his mind begin to wrap around his impending trip, wrote a letter, sent money for a cake to be purchased, and ordered a healthy snack that could also be shared. This was a last-minute decision made while planning to go to China ourselves to get him. We had hoped to make it there in time to celebrate with him. For almost a year, that date was a hopeful target, but we missed it by about 2 ½ weeks.
When I sent the care package for his birthday, I worried it wouldn’t make it to him in time. In reality, it didn’t make it at all. When we met him, he had nothing with him from either care package (we’d sent another one several months prior.) When asked about it…after showing their surprise that we would want him to have those things, we were assured that they would give him what was in the first package later that week when we visited the orphanage. They had not, however, received the birthday package. When we arrived at the orphanage on the designated day, the birthday package was put in our hands. It had arrived in the preceding two days.
|We were in Tennessee for the first party|
When children are abandoned, it is a rarity for anything to accompany them, let alone a handwritten note containing personal data. Generally, once a child is found and a guesstimate of their age is surmised, the day they are found is used to count back from. Let’s say a child is found on December 10 and a doctor thinks he or she is two years old. His/her birthday would become Dec. 9th or 10th two years prior. This haunting day of abandonment becomes indelibly tied to their birth.
Our son’s assigned birthday is an anomaly by this pattern. With guessed gap of six months, where December 19th would become June 10th, five months and fifteen days were subtracted. We’ll likely never know the reason for this. The positive spin that we can put on it is that, for whatever reason his date was chosen, it ended up being my grandmother’s birthday as well. She wasn’t able to meet him but they’ll always share that.
Many of you may wonder, “What if the doctor was wrong?” Exactly! Of course the doctor is wrong. Who do you know, pediatrician or otherwise, who can guess exactly how old a child is to the day? And what are the odds this would match up with the day they’re abandoned? Not likely.
|Second party with other side of the family|
As my son turns five, whenever he actually turns five, I worry that his current excitement leading up to the day will end up being grief as he gets older. A sad reminder of everything we’ll never know. This may explain why I have recently been binging, splurging, scavenging—whatever word makes most sense for my new obsession with buying everything I can find online that is connected with my son’s home city. Ebay is a treasure trove for this stuff. Who knew?
It started out innocently enough with my trying to purchase Chinese vases for honoring my son’s other mothers on Mother’s Day. This turned into learning of various arts my son’s province and city are known for and trying to hunt that kind down. That led to my finding antique coins minted in his city, historical photos and stereographs of images taken in his city, antique maps of his province and city, books about his city, stamps from his city…some seriously cool historical stuff from his city.
In my grieving his loss of history, I may have purchased a LOT of whatever history I could find for him. Mind you, these gifts will be given to him throughout his life and last his lifetime…but I may want to be aware of these feelings I have leading up to his birthday—and disconnect my PayPal account for a while.
Because, all of this, I think about each morning and throughout the day when asked if he is finally five.
It helps that we celebrated with him three times this year (not
counting the “unbirthday” party we hosted for him a few months after he came
home with us last year.) Hey, if you don’t know when you’re birthday really is,
celebrating it more often spreads out your chances. Am I right?
|Unbirthday Party last August|
One of those celebrations was an “early” party with cousins where he got a card that says, “You’re 5 today!”
“I am? I five?” he asked as I read it to him.
“Sure,” was the best I could muster.