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21

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Today my baby girl turned 21. I wrote the following post a year ago. Many things in my life have changed since then. Some things have ended, some have been added, but my daughter is my daughter forever and always. What follows is the beginning of our journey. 


Nikki's 21 today.


We were shopping, shopping for a kid. We looked through books, huge, heavy books filled with pictures of small, smiling faces. Under the pictures were labels. Each label had all of the ingredients that went into making each “product." We checked each picture and each label against our list, our shopping list.

That’s how it felt with our third adoption. With our first two adoptions we were the product. We put together marketing campaigns. Those campaigns were distributed to the shoppers and the shoppers made decisions based on our ingredients, our nutritional value and our expiration dates. I think it was easier for us to be the product and not the shopper.

We already had kids, seven all together, so we went about making a list of what we thought we wanted. It was like choosing fruit it seemed to me. “Do I want the green grapes, or the purple grapes? Seeded or unseeded? Organic or not?” We thought we had a simple list: girl under the age of three living in Washington or Oregon. That was it. We looked at hundreds of pictures of girls under three living in the Pacific Northwest that that were free for adoption and not just a “maybe." How could we choose? The more we looked the more confused we became.

We had tunnel vision. We were shopping for the child that would fit into our lives. We weren’t searching for the child whose life we would fit into. Quite by accident we saw a profile of a child that didn’t match our list. Yes, it was a girl. Yes she lived in Washington. Yes she was free for adoption, parental rights had been terminated. She was six years old, three years over what we wanted. Jeff and I exchanged uncertain glances. To be polite we agreed to look at the picture.

We stared at the smiling face in the school photograph. We turned and stared at each other. We were looking at our daughter. I’m not sure how we knew, we just did. The “label” didn’t matter. It had all sorts of warning signs listed in bold print:

Crack baby

Fetal Alcohol Effects

Neglect

The list went on. We were shown police records of the people whose rights had been terminated. We were shown the hospital records of our daughter. The phrases that stood out were “smells like brewery, positive for cocaine, three pounds, fragile preemie." None of that mattered. Our list didn’t matter. What mattered was bringing our daughter home as soon as we humanly could.

A week later we sat in a Burger King waiting to meet our daughter. The caseworker was late. We kept checking our watches, looking out of the windows, and pacing waiting for our daughter to be delivered. The minutes crept by, each one longer than the last. I had to get to a phone. I had to see if there was a problem.

I had just left a frantic voice mail for the caseworker when this little sprite of a child burst through the door. She was in white tights, a white turtleneck and a blue jumper. Her ebony hair had been pulled into many braids. Her braids had been secured with hair ties that had brightly colored balls attached. She bolted through the fast food joint. She was screaming “My Daddy, my Daddy, my new Daddy!” Every head turned, every face smiled. Every one there watched a child meet her Daddy for the very first time.

When she got to where Jeff was standing she leapt off of the floor and into his arms nearly knocking him over. She touched his tear stained face and traced the path of his emotion with her little brown hand. Then she threw her skinny little arms around his neck and pressed her cheek against his.

Suddenly she maneuvered herself around in his arms and yelled “Where’s my mommy?” Then she saw me. Our eyes locked and I saw a smile, a smile bigger than I’ve ever seen on such a small child. In an instant she was out of Jeff’s protective arms and into mine. “You’re my new mommy!”

“Yes, I am your mommy.”

She burrowed her head into my neck and giggled. She reached out for her daddy. He put his strong arms around us both. Jeff and I cried, she giggled. Time stood still. Our daughter was with us at last.

That was fourteen years ago. This past March Nikki turned 20. She graduated high school last May at the top of her class. She will begin college this fall studying Criminal Justice and Art History. I can’t imagine our lives had we stubbornly stuck to our list. I can’t imagine our lives without our daughter. I don’t want to imagine what would have happened had we heeded the warnings boldly posted on her “label."



With Nina

Riding with PaPa

She's 20!

Cruising with mom

Graduation!

 Just look at that smile.


17 comments:

jen March 8, 2011 at 9:12 PM  

Thanks, Terri. Our own road through adoption and the foster system wasn't as positive. I'm always happy to hear that the system sometimes succeeds. Lucky you.

Daisygirl March 8, 2011 at 9:14 PM  

K seriously in tears! I love your story! I love that you share that same story with your daughter forever!

Happy Birthday to Nikki! I just so love you chica!

Miley March 8, 2011 at 9:33 PM  

I'm all teary-eyed.
I am so glad y'all didn't try to get a child that fit your mold but that you stuck with your gut instead. :)

Brenda Susan March 8, 2011 at 9:58 PM  

So beautiful Hun! Makes it all worth it huh?

Poetic Justice March 8, 2011 at 10:12 PM  

Aw, and look at how happy and healthy she is now! Happy Birthday Nikki! xo

Allyson & Jere March 8, 2011 at 10:40 PM  

What a wonderful story and post. She is absolutely adorable, and clearly she thrived with the love of you two. She's a tiny little thing. Happy Birthday to Nikki!

MarkD60 March 9, 2011 at 5:45 AM  

Happy Birthday Nikki!

Jamie March 9, 2011 at 6:25 AM  

Geez.. rip my heart out and put it back together again with that kid's smile.

What a beauty. Go grab the world by it's scruff of the neck, Nikki. It's yours to do with what you wish!
Happy Birthday
:-)

Furry Bottoms March 9, 2011 at 7:35 AM  

Aw! I am all choked up. She is gorgeous and I absolutely love that smile!!!

Patty @ A Day in My NYC March 9, 2011 at 8:33 AM  

What beautiful story of meeting your daughter...I have goosebumps everywhere!

Happy Birthday Nikki! :)

Sey March 9, 2011 at 8:35 AM  

You made me cry. Really, especially the first time you net her.

Happy birthday Nikki!

Jennifer Juniper March 9, 2011 at 8:48 AM  

You've made me cry!! What a beautiful post for a gorgeous daughter.

MamaTink March 9, 2011 at 10:03 AM  

What a beautiful girl! And you can tell that beauty goes straight through to her heart!

JessRaquel March 9, 2011 at 3:31 PM  

Awww a happy 21st to her! What a wonderful story

Classic NYer March 9, 2011 at 4:06 PM  

Aww!

(Incidentally, for some reason for all this time I thought she was five or so years older...)

redgirl March 17, 2011 at 7:25 AM  

awesome story. there are sooo many children that dont get the love that she gets.

HAPPY BiRTHDAY
She has 2 birthdays. Each one just as special as the other.

Boobies March 25, 2011 at 9:09 AM  

I'm so behind on my blog reading!!

You must tell her happy bday from me...you've raised a gorgeous young lady!

This just makes me want to be a better person in general! She's lucky to have you...and you to have her!

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