Monday, April 21, 2014

The Strategy of Belief

Children come easily into the lives of some people. That was not the case for Cliff and me. Armed with a wing and a prayer, we ended up on the roller coaster ride of international adoption in the 1990s.

China had their rules. The United States had theirs.

Our job was to send countless notarized documents back and forth across this country and theirs. I walked around with my hands in the air, ready for yet another round of fingerprinting. Cliff said there was no reason to put his checkbook away because every office wanted another fee. 

Then everything changed. China said the baby demand required an overhaul. They padlocked their adoption bureau doors. Our paperwork was trapped inside. It would take however long it took.

We waited.

Like a lot of women in my shoes, I avoided toy stores and children's departments. Tiny sweaters and stuffed bears were painful reminders. They went into the hands of every child except ours.

Then one spring shopping day in the middle of housewares, I needed to believe in her, our anonymous oversees baby. Ceramic ducks and glass eggs lined the shelves, and I remembered the Easter decorations my mother displayed every year. They made the holiday real for me. I wanted something that would make the holiday real for her. Some day. With us.

Magical thinking is hard to explain. There is no rational equation here. Every heart clings to something.

Suddenly I spotted them: a sugar and creamer of adorable bunny sweethearts. He held the yellow mirror so his girlfriend could admire her bonnet. I knew she'd love them, this child I'd never laid eyes on.

A year later, she did.

Maggie carefully positioned her face to peek into that tiny mirror, adjusting the girl so she could see herself. She's done that every year of her life with us until this one. In that offhand teenager way, she said it didn't matter.

I've been thinking about this. For several years we've played a game when I'd make out a grocery list. I'd ask if she needed anything. She'd offer several items: strawberries, peanut butter, and a boyfriend. "I'll look," I'd say, pretending to add that, too. I finally realized this year she has the thing she's wanted for years--a sweetheart of her own.

I moved the girl for her.

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  1. Your writing often moves me beyond words, Karen. But I don't want to not comment because I can't think how to bundle my emotions into an efficient phrase. Thank you for sharing your thoughts about magic and faith and tradition ... they mean a lot to me.

  2. Every writer needs a reader. I am fortunate to have you. Magic, faith and tradition, as you say, are among our greatest gifts to ourselves and to each other.

  3. I heartily second what Vicki said. Magic, faith, and tradition...I'll be mulling this over for some time, I think. Thank you.

    1. Those three plastic Easter animals purchased for me by my mother are more than 50 years old by now. I hope Maggie holds onto her Easter bunnies for 50 years, too.