On this day, five years ago, a 34-inch tall cutie patootie with the softest blonde curls stepped foot into my home. For nearly 1,273 days, she shared my love and home until she began to share my last name. I’ll never forget that day. Much like I will never forget the moment the judge announced her legally mine. But no matter the relocation of her address or the changing of her last name, I have always known that she will have a special tie to her birth momma. And that thought has always been okay with me. But even more so after a recent visit, they had with one another.
It was Friday…Family Fun Night. A night at the end of the week when we do something fun and out of the ordinary as a family, such as curl up on the couch and watch a movie with our buckets of popcorn, go out to dinner, or play a game of her choice. But on this Friday night, our family fun looked different. As we loaded up in the van, just the three of us, we drove nearly 45 minutes to another town. On the way there, I could feel my stomach get those anxious butterflies that no one likes to feel a flutter. I also noticed my heart rate began to beat faster as I could sense my blood pressure also rise rapidly. And it’s because I knew that in a short amount of time, I would be thrown into an awkward situation.
It had been six months since our daughter, who was adopted through foster care, had hugged and nestled her face in the neck of her biological grandma, whom she refers to as Nonnie. It had been a year since the last time she gave her mom a tight squeeze. But all of that would change the moment we would pull into the Arby’s parking lot. I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew it would be okay. Because while foster care was hard, and open adoption isn’t easy; when you have the mindset that the child is not yours, or even hers, but rather His, it makes it okay.
And it somehow works.
For two hours, they had so much fun reading books while eating curly fries and catching up. In Mikayla’s words, “it was the best night ever.” In fact, she told me after we left that whenever her momma would kiss her on the cheek, something tickled inside of her. And she liked that feeling. And this momma? I loved that she liked it.
My goal in the new year is to make sure that Mikayla can have that tickle from her biological momma as much as possible. Her heart needs it. Her momma’s heart needs it. And my heart? It also needs it. It’s a full-circle kind of love. A love that we all need to experience and extend as we choose to look past each other’s past.
Many people refer to me as a “hero” or “saint” for allowing this visit. I have been told that I have a “huge heart” and am such a “selfless” person. But the truth is I’m not the real MVP in this situation. It’s her mom.
And not just because she performed the most selfless act of kindness when she admitted her inability to care for her daughter as she courageously signed on the dotted line to surrender her rights, but because she also walked five miles in 30-degree weather, wearing only a black leather coat, no gloves, no scarf, no ear muffs, to see her that night.
She was also the one who sat there like a saint, and with so much grace, as she listened to her daughter call me “mom.” Never once rolling her eyes or showing signs of jealousy. I can’t imagine her pain level to see how much she had lost and would never be able to gain. Or to sit there and possibly get lost in her thoughts of “what if” and “I should have” as she held her close to read a book together or stood back to admire how much she had grown apart from her care.
It’s been several days since we said goodbye to her mom and my mind keeps going back to when I watched her walk away. I wondered at that moment what she would do next. Would she innocently cry herself to sleep or destructively shove down her regrets? The truth is, I’ll never know. But what I do know, and what I can’t wait to tell her in the next letter that we send, is about the smile our daughter had as she told me about “that tickle.” The tickle only she can give.
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