Three years ago we touched down in Addis Ababa. I can vividly recall the sounds and the smells. The night was dark and the air cool. The smell of exhaust lingered even though it was late in the evening. As the taxi drove us to our hotel, The Riveria, my head was nearly hanging out the window. I longed for daylight to catch the first glimpse of the African land. There was restless sleep and then we awoke early to the bustle of traffic. We both bounded out of bed to see so many people walking. We could not tell where each was headed but even in the early hours of the morning it seemed people had places to be, their white scarves protecting their heads from the morning air or sun.
There are few words to describe the feelings we all had the day our large van turned down the rocky road headed for the Hannah’s Hope Transitional Home. We were with several other couples all meeting their children for the first time and nobody knew if we should laugh or cry. We prepared cameras, commented on animals in the road and simply tried to breathe. The journey had been so long and then the travel, leaving family behind to venture half way around the world to meet our daughter. I could barely climb the stairs as they ushered us up to the second floor. From there we all took turns couple after couple meeting our children. We photographed each magical moment until it was our turn.
We entered the bright pink room and Almaz motioned for us to sit down on the floor. I found myself scanning the room. Would I know her? Then in an instant she was placed into my arms, our little miracle girl who had already in a few short months endured so much. I looked at her then looked at Bob then looked back at her. She looked into my eyes and smiled. She smiled and I could not contain my tears. How fortunate we were to walk the adoption path no matter the fears, the unknowns and even the losses. She was all I could have ever dreamed when we said yes and I knew my heart would never be the same.
Now three years later she is a bright light to all who meet her. She is witty and smart, remarking often about things children far beyond her years might not even grasp. She is social and silly, holding my face while I read to her at night and working hard to get me to laugh while she plants kisses all over my face. She is a charmer this girl. She is aware and already wonders about black, white and tan. Now she is telling us that she is perfect in the eyes of God no matter her color. She is playful and thrives on the interaction with other kids, never wanting to miss a moment with her neighborhood or school crew. She is a Mama’s girl and in the last few months she has taught me so much about the role of a mother in a young girl’s life. It’s a huge responsibility and one where I teeter between loving all things pink and fancy and reigning her in from caring too much about looks and clothing. Everything I say matters these days and she is forever remarking that someday she will be a Mommy like me. No pressure or anything!
Tonight I watched her lay flat in the bathtub and swish her hair back and forth with just her eyes, nose and mouth above water. I was smiling from ear to ear when she said, “what Mommy?” My words did not come. I could only smile bigger and then we both began to laugh aloud together. She is happy and healthy. She is living the life God intended even though there are days I have no idea exactly how to explain it. Adoption is so crazy amazing and I am blessed every day by the love Ava has brought to our hearts and our home. Three years has flown by. You, sweet Ava, are extraordinary and we can hardly wait to watch you smile and shine your way through the next three years. We love you.