This one was a very short journey—a little more than a half-hour drive. J & P, two remarkable men, got home from México a week ago with their new-born baby girl. Earlier this year, they were able to bring home their first child, a little boy with the bluest eyes. Both babies are thriving; the papas? Awfully sleep deprived! Trying to imagine what it’s like to have a 5-month-old and a 2-week-old, I’d prepared a meal of Colombian comfort food to run over to them. Then I remembered there was something else I’d been planning to take.
First, the backstory. My mom had a very hard time with our decision to adopt Luz María. About 10 months into the adoption process, she made a comment about this child that was already my daughter in all but the legal formalities; her comment was crushing to me. It left the two of us deeply estranged from each other. Fast forward a year, when the adoption process was almost complete. Unexpectedly, I got a call from an acquaintance from Colombia who had travelled to Miami. She told me she’d brought some things with her from Cali that my mom had sent so we made arrangements for me to pick them up the next day.
The gifts were not for me. They were for my girl. They were a set of the most beautiful little dresses imaginable, along with one little night gown. This was a peace offering, the way my mom knew how to express acceptance of my daughter, how to show her love for her own daughter.
They were all gorgeous and one in particular stole my heart—a little yellow dress not unlike one I wore when I was a girl not much older than the child I would soon bring home to finish raising. That yellow dress was the only one I took with me to México twenty years ago, when it was finally time to receive María. We arrived on a Sunday morning and went straight to the orphanage where she was staying. The staff had bought María a very cute outfit and I regret that on that day, I couldn’t wait to change her into the little yellow dress; I wish I had been better able to rejoice in how she came to me instead of being in such a hurry to impose my vision of who she would be. I can’t go back and change that moment and I want to believe I grew into being a more thoughtful and aware mom. Over and over again, that dress has still been a reminder of the joy of becoming a mom, of having a stunningly beautiful child, of feeling her slip her little hand in mine wherever we went.
As María outgrew her abuelita’s dresses, they went into a special keepsake box I had for them. For years, I kept them carefully packed away, occasionally pulling the box down from the closet shelf to look at those lovely pieces of clothing and remember those early months as a parent. The day we placed her in her residential program when she turned 16 and needed more care than we could provide, I came back home, pulled those dresses out again, sobbed and raged at the injustice and the brokenness that had gutted the promise of providing our daughter a home to grow and thrive in until she was ready to have her own home.
Slowly—very slowly—I became aware that I was holding on to those dresses in a way that did them no honor. Even more slowly, I made my peace with the truth that these were not clothes a granddaughter might one day wear. Instead, one found its way to the UK, to María’s cousin. Once I had done that, it became a lot easier to send each of them to another little girl, and then another, until all I had left was the yellow dress.
When J and P told me they were going to have a little girl who would be born in México through a surrogacy program for gay men, I knew little R would get this last dress. I got to bless these two men’s marriage. I have come to cherish them. My both beautiful and broken family is now part of so many different expressions of what it means to be a family, so many different efforts to provide for children in ways that are life giving. I am beyond thankful for that much broader vision and understanding of love and devotion.
I’ll confess I cried again yesterday, as I ironed that little part of who my girl was and who I was twenty years ago. I allowed myself to abide in the realization that all journeys are about death and life, letting go and receiving so much more than I can earn, all those paradoxes inextricably bound together. After a lovely visit with this new little family, I came home to an empty house; my Spouseman is on a trip to Kentucky to see his daughter M. I immersed myself in an app I found for my phone that is a pilgrim’s guide to all the villages the Portuguese Coastal Camino goes through. One journey (or perhaps, one part of the journey) is complete. Another beckons.