On October 19, 2007 at seven o’clock in the evening our son’s case worker was hopelessly lost in the dark on the tree-lined streets of our neighborhood. The two of us were pacing in the front window hoping to see the headlights of her car pull up. About ten minutes later she called asking for directions after trying to describe her whereabouts. As every few minutes passed I realized that she had probably already passed our house. Another call, more directions but no sign of her–or him. I finally went to the end of the street and stood there waiting, looking at every car, trying to see inside and recognize a case worker I had never even met before. Another five minute passed before she rolled passed me and waved. As she parked Darrow and I were both standing in the front yard waiting for him to emerge. She unbuckled the carrier and set it on the sidewalk and asked me to take him inside. I looked down and could not believe his face. It was so beautiful. Darrow said that as I whisked him out of the cold, he looked down into the carrier and was struck by the sight of him.
We all gathered in our living room, Darrow, myself, the case worker, her daughter and our new foster son. Having been a volunteer at a group home for infants, I was not shy about picking up babies. I immediately unbuckled the harness and lifted him gently into my lap on the sofa. He was so tiny, and so thin. He had difficulty lifting his head and at times he frightened me a little by his gaunt appearance. As I spoke to him he looked up into my face like I was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. We were amazed by each other. He took both hands and after weaving his tiny little fingers together he stuck them into his mouth, three from one hand and two from the other.
We talked for a long while with the case worker. She went over his medical issues, feeding schedule and whatever she could tell us about the case. She made us feel as confident as she could about taking care of him. She brought in some supplies to get us through next week and then made her exit.
And then we were three. As Darrow held him, I snapped a few photos. He seemed even smaller in Darrow’s hands. We looked at each other asking–what do we do now? We gave him a bottle and then tried some sweet potatoes which he managed to get all over himself. We brought the dogs in to investigate a little but not too much. Then we gathered up our little package and drove him to the store. While strolling through Target we were a little in awe of what was happening. We tried to buy whatever we thought we would need to get us through the weekend. We picked up dinner for ourselves and drove home. By now it was after 10:00 PM and our foster son was still wide awake. It seemed odd for someone so little and so frail to be so lively so late at night. We took him out of the sad little sleeper that he had arrived in and put him in his new clothes. We played with him for a while on his activity mat and held him until he fell asleep around midnight.
At seven-fifteen on October 19, 2008, the three of us gathered again on the living room sofa. We lit a candle and held a squirming, rambunctious toddler and attempted to mark the occasion. We leafed through an album that Darrow had published of images from those first few weeks. Our son has always been fascinated by his own photos. We told him how much our lives had changed and how much we loved having him. It was ironic that in trying to make this into something solemn and serious, that he was not having any of that. He wanted to get down; he wanted to touch the candle; he wanted to be his crazy, almost two year-old self. He is no longer the little baby coming to us in crisis. This is about him and he is a thriving, developing little person that doesn’t sit still-not even for a moment. And so we ended the occasion with hope for the future. We all leaned forward toward the white pillar candle and blew it out.
And so begins year two….