I really believe that my daughter Fray has no idea that we took a homeland journey to Ethiopia this past February. (Click here to read part one.) For all she knows– despite the repeated back and forth of:
Me: “We are going to Ethiopia!”
Me: “You are FROM Ethiopia!”
Me: “We ADOPTED you FROM Ethiopia!”
We simply took a long ride to the park. I fanaticized we would get off the plane in Ethiopia and Fray would look around and proclaim she was home! She would se herself in all the faces that were similar to her own! She would weep tears of gratitude that her adoptive mom was so insightful, sensitive and courageous with assisting her in her adoption journey! No such luck. Fray was unfazed. She clung to her doll Mimi, as usual, pooped in her diaper and ate her goldfish snack.
We arrived at our hotel in Addias Ababa late at night. My mom and I sat in the hallway outside of our hotel room while Fray cried in the pack-and-play refusing to accept the pitch black sky as night-night time. I was crying too, because I had hauled a huge green duffel bag filled with donations of medicine, bandages, DVD’s, candy, soccer balls, crayons, markers, teddy bears and clothing that had been lost in the shuffle of people and bags in the airport. (Thankfully found a few days later with all its contents!) I think I was also crying because I was disappointed Fray wasn’t having some Lifetime Movie Moment, a connection with the African culture/people/soil. She was just pissed off in her pack-and-play like when we were on vacation in Michigan with my parents.
In the following days we got out and explored. The Ethiopian people were very loving and engaging with Fray. They were impressed with my preschool “mastery” of Amaharic. (It’s not often they hear white folks speaking their language.) My spirit started to rebound, I felt like I was doing right by Fray in their eyes. We went to the Mercado (the main shopping market) where I sifted through rows and piles of crafts looking for the things that would make our home in America feel more Ethiopian. I chose baskets and dolls and animals made of gamey smelling wool. I found bigger handmade dresses to replace the now too small dresses I had bought the last time I was in Ethiopia. It made me think about how much time had gone by and how much Fray had grown.
We took a trip to the care center Fray had lived in for three months. It is a beautiful, well maintained building with floor to ceiling glass in the main sitting area. This was where we sat with several other families one year and eight months ago, waiting to meet Fray. I remember feeling almost embarrassed— like arriving for a blind date, scanning the room and hoping you aren’t the only one looking for a match, feeling vulnerable, hoping you’re going to meet expectations. She was in overalls, all wide-eyed and silent.
Now Fray sat surrounded by kids watching a “Little Rascals” DVD I brought to the orphanage. The kids were fascinated that Mimi’s eyes opened and closed. I was fascinated by the ease of the interaction between Fray and the children. When it was time to go, she cried. Her tears filled my heart with joy. This had been a good place for Fray when she lived here. Somewhere inside, Fray could feel or remember this. She had belonged. For a time, it had been her home.
At some point during this journey, I realized there would not be an “ah-ha!“ moment for Fray in Ethiopia. She was not even three, yet. And that maybe the people that were saying she was too young to go back, too young to appreciate the experience, may have been right. But I also realized that maybe this time around, the “ah-ha!“ moment would be mine. Following my dream to my child, returning with her to her homeland, aware of what I hoped the trip would be and modifying it to what it in fact became. It was an adventure. Fray will have her moment with Ethiopia someday. And I will be there with her, hand-in-hand.