So today is the day we celebrate as family day, or as Selam has decided to name it, “family day.” I know that family days are controversial in the adoption world, and I honor that. But I also want Selam to know that this was the start of something I very much wanted, too. We usually just look at pictures and have a favorite meal. This year, we made birthday cupcakes, wished each other happy birthday roughly 10,000 times and sang the birthday song to ourselves. twice.
There are so many days that could be celebrated or remembered. Referral day, legal adoption day, first day we met, day we became a family (took her to the guest house), day we arrived in the US, day the adoption was finalized. I picked the day I brought her “home” to the guest house, probably for some of the reasons that others don’t like family days–the first day we met was really stressful for both of us. When I left, she cried and thought I was not returning. I don’t really want to celebrate that. By the time that I took her home, she knew what was happening, and was excited (and probably scared to death, as I was.)
It was a fun afternoon, that first one. There was a coffee ceremony for another family that we watched. We played in the courtyard. I gave her a bath. She ate way too much for dinner. She wore these impossibly small pajamas that hung on her. She found a big puffy headband and wore it all day. She fell asleep easily. I sang her songs while her eyelids fluttered to a dreamland I will never know about. I couldn’t sleep.
But I don’t know that we were a family then. It was so new and squishy, and public. All these families in various states of formation were all crowded into the guest house. We ate together. We shared a tiny living area. I remember noticing (and sometimes judging) other parents’ decisions. That wasn’t family day.
I don’t know when it is. It’s sort of like the proverbial drop of water that creates a lake. Which one does it? I remember the first time she spontaneously said she loved me. I don’t remember the first time I really knew I loved her. I remember the time she was really sick and we went to the hospital and the nurse asked me who her mother was and it took me a heartbeat to answer. I remember how strange the word “daughter” felt in my mouth, and how I found so many ways to use it in a sentence, trying on that new identity like a new title. I suspect families grow in drips and drabs and hugs and kisses and fights and consequences and holding firm and giving in. I think they are fed by stupid songs and ruined shirts and late dinners and lost shoes and giggles and chapter books by flashlight. Drip, drip, drop.
Is it right to celebrate the day this all begin, whichever day you choose? I don’t know. But as much as we don’t mature on the day of our birth and we celebrate it anyway, it’s at least worth a cupcake.
So here’s to three years of us! Cupcakes are on the house!