Why Me?

“Mom, why did you adopt me?”

DSC_0040Eight-year-old and wise-beyond-his-years Oscar was sitting at his desk, manipulating LEGO bricks in ways that still confound me.  But this question was one for which I was ready.  I knew the answer, always have known the answer, and responded without missing the proverbial beat:

“We adopted you because you were our son.”

Pleased with my response and figuring he would have fodder on which to chew for the next several minutes, I went back to whatever it was I was reading.   A fan of paradox and the occasional koan, Oscar cocked his head and considered what I said.

Then, “But why me?”

I repeated my initial response, thinking perhaps he missed the magnitude of what I had said.

He looked at me as though I were missing the point and said:  “But I wasn’t your son until you adopted me.  You would have adopted any child they put in your arms if they said it was your child.”  And then he repeated his question–this time plaintively and with all the existential angst he could muster:  “Why me?”

I stared at him–my heart knowing the answer but not being able to articulate it.  He was right, of course.  Whether you form your family through adoption, biologically, or in some other fashion, it takes less than a second to fall in love with a child, with your child.  And once you see a child as your child, he or she is–from that point forward and forever.

I tried to explain to him how I believe the universe guides us to those we are meant to love; how when the nurses at the hospital held him up for us to see just hours after his birth the magnitude of what I felt for him at that moment (and since) has been unlike anything I had ever known, would ever know.  I tried to explain my love.  But love can’t be explained–only expressed and felt.

Oscar, at age eight, sees adoption as a choice we made and the three children we adopted as a series of three separate choices.  We, of course, do not.  While we certainly chose adoption, we see it more as the point to which every other path in our lives was leading.  And we see our sons in precisely the same way other parents see their children–as the people to whom our lives and love led.

Why did we adopt our sons?  Because there could be no one else.

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To My Students

I wrote the following for my students on our return flight from Greece last Saturday, something to share with them after a difficult, heartbreaking, scary week for our friends and family at home.  They are mere words; but sometimes words are all we have. 

WGreece 42hen you share an experience as profound as traveling to what is–for all intents and purposes–the birthplace of civilization, the place where knowledge truly began, it is only natural to get a little contemplative at the end of it all.

The 22 of us now share a bond, our first–maybe for some our only–trip to Greece.  And whether you’re a grandfather or grandmother or a high school student flying for the very first time, you are not the same person you were one week ago.  You have grown, you have learned, you have faced myriad challenges and thrived. 

You have enhanced your understanding of humanity and what it means to be human.  Your chaperones and I are committed to travel; we are committed to you.  We know why this is important; and if you didn’t before, I suspect you do now.

We live in a scary world, where the worst of humanity is on display every day.  But we cannot hide ourselves or run from the world.  We travel because what travel teaches us is that despite our different languages, cuisine, and culture, there is more that links us than separates us.  And what we learn–when we go to Greece or France or England or Italy–is that our only hope is to join with one another and to commit to and learn from one another.

The Orpheus myth is quite right; we cannot look back.  We need to move forward and start building from today.  We need to take the energy we expend needlessly bickering, complaining, rationalizing, and wishing things were different and asking what we can do to make things better for our fellow human beings.

Travel teaches us that nothing is about us–what we want, what we think, our personal opinions and proclivities.  When you stand in Greece, you realize how very small you are; yet, paradoxically, we see also how we truly are each other’s only hope.

Continue your journey, never looking back, with perspective and your life lessons in your heart.  Walk away with the good memories and edit out the rest. 

Thank you for joining us and for understanding why we must, why we do travel.

Plans for the Week

2013-04-05In two days I leave for Greece.

In two days I leave my husband and three sons for a travel adventure with my students the likes of which I can only currently imagine.

Greece.  The birthplace of, well, pretty much everything.  A place I’ve been drawn to for a very long time.

But leaving is hard.  Very, very hard.  And it’s made harder when your seven-year-old son tells you his plans for the week include “crying because you’re not here.”

I asked, and that’s what he told me.

And he meant it.  I could see it in his eyes, hear it in his tone.

He said he’s going to miss my hugs and my kisses.  He said, “I’m going to miss YOU.”

And then he didn’t want to talk anymore about it.

I will hug and kiss him (and his brothers and their father) goodbye on Friday morning.  And as much as it hurts, I’m going to walk out the front door, get in my car, go to work, and go to Greece.

A scene that has been played out countless times in every corner of the world that never, ever gets any easier.