While most people spent this past weekend in a last-minute frenzy of Christmas shopping and holiday baking, I was meeting my son. The meeting took place in a house that had once been home to a Wheeling elite, some hoi polloi of the privileged classes who would turn over in his grave if he could see that his beloved house had since been converted into a government office. We arrived early which allowed us time to freak out (me), ask a million questions (Chris), and stand stoically (Todd). Before we could default to our argument setting, they arrived.
Elijah made his grand entrance from the side door of a gray minivan. When he first jumped out of the van I laughed, amused by how tiny he was. Standing less than three feet tall he had earned his pre-meeting nickname of The Hobbit. His foster mom brought him inside and Chris immediately pounced on him with a million more questions before forcing Elijah to sit down so he could show/narrate the Life Book we had made and recite a list of rules he had spent the drive down memorizing.
After Elijah’s foster mom left the four of us retired to the playroom with his caseworkers who would assist in the transition. At first Elijah wouldn’t look at us, he just focused on playing with his cars. He only said a few words, all of them directed at his toys. Barely five years-old and he had already mastered the art of freezing people out. It was like this for a long time. I freaked out. Chris asked even more questions. Todd, no longer standing, now sat stoically.
I’m not sure when it all clicked. It just did. Suddenly Chris and Elijah were running around the office engaged in an endless game of hide-n-seek. Suddenly I was hiding underneath the desk with Elijah, having been roped into the game, waiting for Chris to find us. Suddenly Elijah was holding Todd’s hand on the way to the car. Then we were all at the zoo and Elijah was following Chris everywhere, shouting “Chris! Chris!” as he chased after his big brother who seemed to have been there his whole life.
For me it really clicked in that moment when Elijah asked me to carry him — because now I could be trusted. And it clicked again later that night at the hotel when I woke up at 3 am to find Chris and Elijah curled up asleep with Elijah sleeping in Chris’s arms. And then again the next morning after Elijah fell and Todd scooped him up into his arms and cradled him, both looking so calm and peaceful and right.
It just made sense. It was easy. Oh, I’m not naive. I know it won’t always be easy. There will be bumps, big and little. There will be days when he and Chris will hate each other and nights when he cries for his foster mother. There will be moments when he wishes he were anywhere but here with us. But we will get past it, just as we did with Chris.
And just as we did with Chris, we will hold onto those moments when it all felt right.