I was twenty-four when I met my first-born. It was at the international arrivals terminal at Dulles Airport. He was six at the time.
In his first six years we had been separated by every imaginable divide. By language, culture and a wide ocean. It was a transcendent moment when we met and I instantly came to believe in a broad definition of family. A definition that could stretch to include not only this little boy, but also a little girl that was soon to follow. She would also be six years old at the time of her adoption. Both were victims of a failed communist system, poverty and vodka, each one more destructive than the other.
We all enter this world needing to know that we are welcome and wanted. My two adopted children did not know such a greeting. They were born to places of extreme deprivation and violent neglect. At three, my daughter was locked alone in an apartment, for weeks at a time, without food or heat. It is a mystery to us how she was able to survive. My son remembers eating out of garbage cans and being dragged by his feet into the orphanage the day that his grandmother discarded him. All of this heartbreak, all in their first six years.
Both are still grieving their many losses and will be for years to come. My son and daughter have only been with us for three years and one year, respectively, but both are still striving; striving for our approval, affection and some elusive proof of permanency. But I believe in a broad definition of family and in its power to heal and restore each of their lost, first six years.
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