My precious Malachi,
Five years ago today, you were born in a small village in southern Ethiopia. I don’t have a picture of you as a very young baby, but I imagine coffee with a bit of cream skin, big curious eyes, wisps of those curls that I grieve for every time you want to cut your hair, and those same lips. I don’t know many things about the first eighteen months of your life, but I know you were loved, both in your homeland and across the ocean. The first picture we have of you is bittersweet-
Sweet because it’s the first glimpse we have of your beautiful face, but difficult also because you look scared, confused and skinny. I remember deliberately not looking at your arms in this picture because I didn’t want to cry in front of your brother and sister if you looked like you were starving. The next picture we have is after you’d been in Gladney’s care for a while, and you look much healthier and happier-
Baby, when we got *the* phone call, I was shaking so hard I could barely answer the phone! Our caseworker, Natalie, told me we’d been matched with you, and I gathered your brother and sister up to go up to church to get daddy. I didn’t notice until later that I had two different shoes on and your sister still had a swimsuit on! Daddy and I traveled to come get you, and it was one of the best moments of my life…and also one of the scariest. My first thought when I drove away from the airport and began to see the city was “How am I going to be able to give him any of this?” My second thought was “Can’t he drive any faster??” which trust me sweetheart, he couldn’t. We were lucky to dodge the people and goats and sheep enough. We got to the guest house, and they asked if we were ready for you. We said yes, and as we were waiting, I found myself fixing my hair, looking in the mirror…as if an 18 month old baby was going to care about my hair. You’ll learn that girls sometimes do strange things when they are nervous. I saw Travis walking down the dirt road with this tiny boy in his arms. In those moments, you think you will think something profound and life changing, but I’m going to be honest, I thought “he has pink socks on.” Travis handed you over and you and I just stared at each other.
Precious boy, you had this expression constantly for a good three days. Except when I would try to hand you over to daddy and you would just cry and turn away. We don’t think you had seen many white men, especially not bald white men, but daddy was patient, and by the third day he won you over with the help of a pinwheel toy. Oh how the tables have turned as you are stuck to daddy like glue now. That first day, you sat completely still, not moving and not making a sound. You were so still that we double checked with Gladney to make sure you really could walk! The first night we put you to bed, you just stared at us, then rolled over and went to sleep. When you woke up the next morning, you looked so surprised to see us lying next to you, like you were thinking “You’re still here?!”
Yep. We’re still here. Three and a half years later, and sometimes I forget you weren’t always in our family. You are the stereotypical baby of the family- doted on, a bit spoiled, the class clown. You have a thousand silly faces that you love to display at all kinds of inappropriate times.
You are so many things, Malachi.
Happy birthday, my sweet boy. Can’t believe you are a “whole hand old”. Promise me that when you are a teenager, you will still randomly say “Mama, I gotta tell you something. I love you.”