Today marks the 8th anniversary of Luc coming home. We haven’t historically done a great job of celebrating this anniversary. Reed and I have struggled over the years with major marriage problems, major financial problems, major tragedies, and intense stress levels. We let those things get in the way of something much more important: celebrating the best thing that ever happened to us.
We get to the beach around noon, and eat our lunch in some Adirondack chairs overlooking the ocean. I catch Luc quietly staring at the horizon.
Me: “What’re you thinking about, cutie?”
Luc: “How many of these we’ve missed.”
It’s time to change my priorities. I wasn’t raised the way I want to raise Luc. It’s hard to unlearn the lessons from experiences that left me vowing I’d never do that to my own child. Yet here I am, glossing over birthdays and anniversaries, ignoring homework guidance responsibilities, excusing myself from sitting down and reading next to my son…
Today is different. The three of us (plus both dogs) are in Malibu for our annual (ish) beach Luc Anniversary Observation.
It’s not an easy day.
It seems like it’d be a day filled with cake, giggles, and joy. But the day is equally filled with angry outbursts from feelings of intense loss. Questions about birth family, why, how, and where, fill Luc’s head. He does his best to stuff those questions and the sadness back into their hiding place. I beg him to speak his big feelings, no matter what they sound like. Sometimes he does, other times he just can’t.
There’s a football to throw, and the waves drown out the growls and screams when they come. Then come some giggles. Then some more tears, a tantrum. And later a few jokes, and silliness.
When we get cold, we leave the beach, passing a tall, blond man and his light skinned Black daughter playing. The man’s attempt to do a cartwheel leaves his daugher in peels of laughter. He laughs too, looks up to see us laughing, nods, and goes back to playing. We share the gift transracial families give each other: indifference.
We find our way back to the car, and tell Luc dinner is his choice. He can’t decide between mac & cheese and pizza. The huge feelings that surface on this day leak out in the strangest ways. He’s almost in tears because he can’t decide what he wants for dinner. It’s almost like the decision is between us and his birth family.
In the end, we decide the fancy Malibu restaurant will ruin mac & cheese with sacrileges like pepper, Parmesan cheese, and truffle oil. Pizza it is. And soda. And ice cream from a cafe that makes flavors like Blueberry Lavendar, Strawberry Chunk Mint, and Rose Raspberry Lychee.
Believe it or not, the father and daughter from the beach show up! We recognize each other, and ask things like “How old are you?” “What grade are you in?” “Is the homework more intense in 4th grade?” Everyone around us wants to ask, “Are those children adopted?” “What’s that story?” “Couldn’t they have their own?”*
After ice cream, we head home. We get ready for bed, and read together. But as lights-out time nears, more big feelings surface. Soon we’re pulling out photos, looking through emails to find updates, and answering questions like, “Does my birth mom have enough to eat?”
Finally, we have to insist it’s time to sleep. But okay if Luc sleeps with us. I think about when Luc was tiny and how the books insisted we never do time-outs, only time-ins with our child wrapped in our arms. I remember the one time we tried a time-out. The resulting shrieks of terror will reduce me to tears for the rest of my life.
Tonight, I don’t make that mistake. Tonight I willingly sacrifice a comfortable night of actual sleep so that my son can have peace. “As long as I’m touching both of you, the bad dreams don’t come.”
Tonight, he’s been home for 8 years.
*Luc is “our own.” Yes, we could/can have biological children. Our first choice was to adopt, so we did. I don’t know the other family’s story, and I didn’t ask because it’s none of my business.