I simply cannot imagine what it would feel like to go through life…heck to go through each day…without having answers or links to my immediate family of birth.
Who are they? What do they look like? Where are they now? Why did they leave me? Will I ever see them again? Are they even alive? Do they love me? Am I worthy?
It all sounds very Annie-like. It all is very Annie-like. Except…
- There is no Daddy Warbucks. In fact, adoption often stresses finances both before and after the actual adoption.
- There is no mansion, in-house staff, inside swimming pool, or to-die for penthouse view. We are just real people, with a real heart for family who have committed to figuring things out together. It can be really exhausting most days!
- There is little to no hope of finding out the truth. We cling to the tiniest of hopes that more information may become available, but know this may never happen.
- This is real life, not Hollywood. And real life often involves way more pain, suffering and mountain-sized obstacles than 90 minutes of theatrical drama can provide. The good guys don’t always win.
Similar to Annie, however, there is no paper trail. No records at the social security office, no contact information left behind and just a few links to the past. Similar to Annie, we have a stack of unanswered questions. Similar to Annie, there is a hope buried deep inside that one day a birth family may appear and all will be well.
I know our daughter has many questions. Questions she is able to ask and questions she can only feel at this point in the depths of her heart.
Recently, I have been observing something very interesting and intriguing about how my precious child is attempting to create links, preserve whatever memory she may have, and find some truth…any truth that may exist. Whenever she is in the mood to talk, or process her feelings, I am in the mood to listen.
Keep in mind she is only five years old. You may not think a five year old is capable of deep and meaningful conversation, or real memories, but I would beg to differ. Sometimes we adults just need to listen better, more deeply and without our own distractions. Her stories are told like a five year old would tell them, but they often convey deeper truths and hidden meanings.
Because the truth is, I do believe she has some memory of her birth family. We all do, right? Even though just a toddler at the moment of impact, she is forever and ever linked to the parents who brought her into the world. Forever! And just because I am doing all that I can to stand in the gap, I will never be able to fill or heal that God-sized hole.
When she first started talking about her birth family, her birth mom in particular, she would recount for me in specific detail what kind of work her mom did. Taken aback at first, I wondered if this story emerged after reading a book or looking through photos of her home country. It could just be a book, I countered silently. But as I paged through our photo albums and books, I saw no visual representation of what she spoke of. I knew what she was saying could indeed be a real memory, because I have seen it with my own eyes. Plus, her story has remained eerily consistent for over a year now.
And new details are emerging!
The clothing worn by her mom, specific pieces of jewelry, how her mother held her and what type of house they lived in. All details given, with astute attention to detail.
So I cling to the edge of my seat hoping to find missing pieces that will help connect the dots.
But then she throws in a curve ball…
We rode in on a donkey to the place where you were going to come for me.
Now, this actually could be a true statement; a real memory. It really could be.
≪≪ Donkeys are key to many aspects of life in Ethiopia ≫≫
BUT, prior to her telling me this for the first time, we were smack dab in the middle of Advent and the Christmas season. We were reading and studying various passages from Scripture. We were recounting the stories leading up to Jesus’ birth. And in one of those stories, not exactly found in Scripture, there is popular narrative that depicts Mary riding into Bethlehem. And how did Mary ride into Bethlehem? On a…
You guessed it! Donkey.
Which is also very possible! Donkeys are most definitely a means of transportation. In Jesus’ time and yes, even today, in the developing world. So, this could all have happened just as she said.
But it also might not have. I just don’t know.
As our little girl struggles to make sense of a world she once knew, of a family and life she grieves, she does have embedded memories. And I want to help her keep those alive and articulate them.
But at the same time, she also has a good does of fantasy thrown into her stories and her memories. Similar to Annie.
She will speak of her country and language and all sorts of things, that often have little basis in reality. She says things that couldn’t possible be true, and things that she certainly has no memory of whatsoever.
So, what’s a mom to do? How do I help her remember the truth, keep alive healthy memories and yet teach her to distinguish between reality and fantasy?
This is new territory for us, so please share your wisdom and experience and how you have handled these discussions either in your profession or in your home.