In my work as an early intervention therapist, I often found myself knocking hesitantly on the door of a home that I was visiting for the first time. It took a moment for me to catch my breath, to straighten my thoughts, and to knock with the confidence that I was ready, file in hand, to enter the home of another during what was certainly among the most vulnerable times in the family’s life. Maybe the baby had been born early; maybe the little one was not meeting developmental milestones as expected; maybe there was a serious medical issue; maybe the family
just wanted to “make sure the baby was okay.” Part of my job was to use standardized tests and parent interviews to paint a picture of the child’s areas of development. Part of my job was always to find something good, even on the most difficult day, because there was always something good to find.
Before we adopted Sadie from Korea, we were presented with what I remember as a questionnaire of sorts. It was a checklist with the intent to match our family, according to our comfort level, with a child who was to have an adoption plan. On this paper were dozens of ailments and physical conditions, formed in two columns and resembling a grocery list. The potential adoptive parents were supposed to check the boxes next to the aliments or conditions that would be acceptable in their adopted child. One box said “one eye missing,” and we did not check that box. We did check one or two boxes but, starry eyed as we may have been, we were “hoping” for a healthy child.
It wasn’t enough to hold you, to talk to you, to carry you around, or even to offer you mother’s milk. It wasn’t even close. And neither eye was missing.
I looked for the cupcake. He had used all his might to squeeze the buttercream from the plastic bag, and now he wondered where it was. She had taken the best cupcake with the most frosting when I had looked away. She took it for herself, because she doesn’t need anyone, except everyone. But she doesn’t know how to tell them. She must have been wondering, “why didn’t you save it for me?”
And then the tears flowed, and they never stopped.
My beautiful red-haired friend Sue rescues weathered or even battered furniture pieces and garage sale discards. In what may seem like the wave of her magic wand, she transforms a barnwood box into a wondrous, useful work of art. She can envision what others cannot; she sees it because she knows it is there.
I worked with Beth, a human angel if ever there was one, for many years, but before that she came to my home to help my child find his voice. She is able to find, perhaps in unconventional ways, methods to teach children to communicate. She knows how to find the bridge, and she has paved the path for so, so many, because she knew, in her soul, how to find the channel.
And then there is Rose, the one that helped me look inside myself, to show me that I had a job, and that I was equipped to handle it. She knew, though I sometimes do not believe.
Our friends adopted a little girl who is blind in one eye. I know that they did not check a box. And I know, as I am certain they do, that this precious girl is the one that was destined to be part of their family.
You tell all of your secrets (which may really be fantasies) to the man at the bus stop while burying them away from the one that rocked you, from the one that tried to console you, to quiet you, to comfort you.
There wasn’t a box for it.
We were at the barn where the children ride horses, where all of my children have been welcomed on their good days and bad. There was a boy using sign language to communicate with his caregiver. On the way home from the barn, Sadie remarked that she knew she could learn a lot from that boy, and how his jokes had made her laugh so hard. She knows how to find her heroes.
It’s not exactly sitting together at the ballet or drinking tea, but it is closer than it was before.
Maybe our connection comes in realizing that we cannot be understood, in understanding that there actually is no understanding. Maybe our connection comes in knowing that the good is there, that we may not be able to meet halfway or even look one another in the eye on a tough day, but that we are here, together, just as we are supposed to be.