There’s that one day that comes once each year. It’s a date marked for celebration. Aside from holidays, it is the best time of the year, especially if it’s your special day. For me, that day is Sept. 17. My gotcha day.
A gotcha day is an adoption day. The day a child was adopted by its parent(s). The concept is similar to a birthday. There is a special acknowledgement of a person who has come into the lives of others. But there are also differences between the two, other than without birthday there would not be an adoption day. Yes, duh.
For those who are adopted, celebrating a gotcha day means more than a birthday. It is a celebration that can actually be mutually special for both their parent(s) and them. It is on that day that they celebrate the joy of meeting each other.
The day I met my adoptive parents… well I have no recollection of that day. But from the stories my parents have told, it was quite an experience. For both of us.
It started with an airplane. But not just any airplane. You see, the day my parents flew out to meet me, was just days after 9/11. So it was not surprising at that time to find a plane occupied with more vacant seats than passengers. For anyone to board a plane around that time meant there was something inexplicably important waiting for them at their destination. For my parents, they were flying across the world because there was someone waiting for them. A little girl who needed them.
I was malnourished. Hungry for love. Thirsty for care. I was a toddler amongst babies. I had hundreds of sisters. But I had no parents. I was in a place of broken hearts. I had no home. That is until two exceptional people came to give me one.
The two parents brought two of their sons. The four of them, these American strangers, approached me with hardly any knowledge of who I was other than what they gathered from a few documents and a photo. They did not know me but they held out their arms to welcome me with full hearts. I was terrified. Terrified at these faces that looked completely different than mine. Their voices possessed by a language I did not understand. But that didn’t stop them. They spoke with their hearts.
At first, I wanted nothing to do with them. My mom said I would just cry and scream. It broke her heart to see me so sad, enough to question the decision to keep me. Not because she couldn’t handle it, but because she hated not being able to take away the pain. But after time, and lots of food, I had warmed up to them. In fact, I learned that by the time they had taken me back to the orphanage to say goodbye, I had completely changed. Instead of avoiding their arms, I held onto them for dear life. It was like I knew after a taste of a good life, I couldn’t go back.
But just because I had accepted them, doesn’t mean my parents had it easy for years to come. We learned I had developed certain habits. For example, in the hotel room I would fold linens. My little hands meticulously folding wash cloths when they should be holding crayons or dragging stuffed animals across the floor.
When they brought me back to America, my mom learned that whenever she scolded me, I would just smile and look as though her words did not phase me, but as soon as she turned her back, I would cry thinking she was not looking.
It’s moments like these that reminded my parents of how desperately I needed them. For me, those moments serve as reminders of how grateful I should be that I am living the life I have now.
That is not to say that I am not also grateful for those workers in the orphanage. Despite the circumstances, they work to supply each child with the basic necessities the mothers and fathers of the children should be providing. So I thank those people who took care of me those three years, and to anyone who has or is working to give a temporary home for orphans.
To my family, including all relatives, I thank you for 15 years of love and laughter.
My parents, however, I thank the most. It is because of them that the small hands that were folding those cloths are the same hands typing on a keyboard these words of gratitude and endearment 15 years later.
To those of you parents who have adopted or are going to adopt, remember this when your child’s gotcha day comes. This day is just as much as yours as it is theirs. To you, it is the day your child was adopted, but to your child, it is the day you entered their life. To them, it is more special than their birthday. Birthdays eventually become reminders of how old they are getting. But gotcha days are reminders of how many years of love you have given them.
Don’t let the significance of that day slip through the cracks of your busy schedule.
Happy Gotcha Day, Mom and Dad.
Happy Gotcha Day to other Sept. 17 adopters and adoptees.
Until next time,
peace and love.