“The boy in your foster family?” I replied. I don’t know how I caught her train of thought, but I’m glad I did.
“Yeah,” she answered. “And the bird.”
“You loved that bird,” I remembered what her foster mother told us in Guatemala City, about her staring and staring at that bird every day, a story we repeated for her over and over again until slowly, she began to feel this story as her own, this one precious detail of her life before coming to live with us.
“Why did I love that bird so much?”
“Your foster mom told us watching that bird was one of your favorite things. Maybe because it was colorful. I don’t know.” It’s not much of an answer, but it’s all I have.
* * * * *
Adoption has come up a lot in our family lately. I’m not sure why – if something set my daughter to digging again, if she’s simply getting older and cycling through another layer of thought and questions about who she is and where she comes from, if it stems from conversations with her adopted friends, or if I’m just attuned to the topic of adoption more than I’m attuned to, say, the topic of duck tape creations or vampires.
* * * * *
“When are we going to Guatemala?” she asked.
“We want to go, very much,” I assured her. “We did plan to go this summer.”
“I know.” The accusation in her voice has dwindled in the weeks since we first told her we couldn’t go.
“We have enough money for the trip,” my partner chimed in. “We’ve been saving.”
“But there’s too much violence right now,” I explained.
“You mean guns?” my daughter asked.
“Yes,” I replied.
* * * * *
In December 2011, the New York Times reported, “The increasing drug and organized-crime violence in Central America has led the Peace Corps to pull out of Honduras and stop sending new volunteers to Guatemala and El Salvador,” although the Peace Corps website still lists Guatemala as “open” to volunteers.
My partner and I know four people who’ve traveled from the U.S. to Guatemala in the past year, each of them returning with passion for the place, tales of awesome beauty, kindness and generosity, recommendations of where we should go, and yet each story has been sprinkled reluctantly with violence – gunshots, death. How do I reconcile myself to the risk?
I don’t know when things will change, and our little girl needs so deeply to be there and see what there is to see.
* * * * *
“Why couldn’t she keep me?” she asked me. It’s like she’s been reading my books for adoptive parents, she’s following the scripts so closely.
“She didn’t have enough money to feed a baby,” I answered. It’s one variation of a response I’ve used for years.
Enough money. But this time, as the words leave my mouth, I realize there’s a strong chance this story line will shape her relationship to money forever.
Money and Guatemala. Guatemala and money. I do not yet have words to untangle these threads of thought, but I’d better find them soon if I’m going to be prepared for my daughter’s excavation of truth – whichever direction it turns – about poverty and adoption, foreign policy, where we all stand, the life she’s living now and the life she might have lived if her birth mother had money enough to feed a baby.
There are days when I do not feel equipped to hold such responsibility.
“She wanted a good life for you.”
That’s what it all comes down to, isn’t it? For all of us. For all the moms and dads in the adoption equation. Wanting what’s best for our kid.
Wanting. What’s best. For our kid.
Sometimes it isn’t clear. But still, we move forward the best we know how.