Trying to remember

I've noticed that there are a lot of stories up now about new families coming together. They've all brought me back to my children's arrivals - they seem so long ago now. And compared to the incredible travel stories I'm reading, our arrivals seem so mundane - both took place in the old round Northwest terminal at DC's National Airport. Our agency didn't allow us to travel to Korea to meet our children then, and so they were escorted by GIs returning to the States after tours in Korea.

Yet these experiences, odd as they may be, record when we and our children became family. They're an incredibly important page in our children's history, one that is really more about their loss than our new connection. For a long, long time, they were etched in my mind as if they were chiseled in stone. But time erodes both stone and memories, and it makes me sad to know that they're fading . . .

September 20, 1989

I remember driving to the airport in rush hour traffic, which was so backed up when we got there that we were afraid we wouldn't make it in time. The parking lots were all full, and we were just at the point of parking illegal in the congressional lot when we came to one of the smaller lots that appeared to have a couple of spaces. Unfortunately, it was nowhere near the terminal, and so we parked and sprinted in the hot late summer afternoon, dodging cars and slow-moving pedestrians.

In those pre-9/11 days you didn't need a ticket to get to the gates, and when we arrived we found we didn't need to have run. The flight was delayed, was still circling the airport. So we had time to see who else was sharing this momentous experience. We met a couple from West Virginia, never learned their names. And another local couple and their daughter, very nice people. And a couple that became our dearest friends. We all chatted nervously, nothing else to do but wait.

At last the plane was on the tarmac. I remember taking a picture and thinking "this is the first picture I've taken of our son." The intensity of the moment became overwhelming, and from that point on my memories are very sketchy. I remember the plane finally pulling up to the gate. People began to disembark, and a few stayed at the gate to see the babies and families meet. When it was clear that the passengers had all come off the plane, the agency staff went on board to meet the escorts and bring the babies to their new families.

Now, shortly before The Boy arrived, on two separate occasions, I had dreamt that Third Dad and I were at the airport for his arrival. In the dream, when The Boy was brought to us I turned to Third Dad and said, "You must hold him first." And so I told Third Dad that when The Boy was brought to us at the airport that day that he should hold him first.

At last, down at the end of the gangway, there they were. The agency staff, the escorts, and the babies. My eyes blurred. They came closer and closer. And as they approached, I all but knocked Third Dad over to hold The Boy first. I still feel badly about that, but honestly I couldn't help it. There really was a point at which I no longer felt I was controlling my own motions. It all just happened. And The Boy was in my arms.

I remember The Boy in a little blue knit suit, long knit pants, a long-sleeved top, socks. Lots of layers underneath, too, he must have been sweltering. He was smiling and babbling, looking at us very directly. So much noise, people departing and arriving, people laughing and talking, agency people handing us bags and papers and giving us directions to do this and that - stand here for a photo! don't lose this bag! be sure to read this report! So much noise! And so I just walked away with The Boy, found myself a little nook and sat down.

And there, in the airport, amid the noise and chaos, I met The Boy - and his mother, who was with him so strongly, in his eyes, his hands, the shape of his face, his very presence. The noise died away, and the only people in the airport were the three of us. Of all the moments of that evening, this one is frozen in time. It will be with me forever. But it was just a moment - suddenly Third Dad was there, asking me to come back and talk to everyone, to take more photos, to celebrate. And so I did.

Slowly, the families began to say their good-byes and to drift away to start their lives together. And we did, too.

July 31, 1991

"She's arriving WHEN??? Wednesday?? But she wasn't supposed to arrive until September!!! Omigosh, we don't even have her room ready! But who cares? She's arriving in two days!!!"

Shock and excitement, those are my first memories of The Girl's arrival. Speedy arrivals were rare, so this lucky turn of events was quite unexpected. Looking back, I'm pretty sure I know what happened. I had paid a visit to INS several months earlier to correct an error I had found on our I-600 - I think I left out some information. I took a day's leave to get things straightened out. After several hours, I was finally able to see the INS officer - an incredibly nice woman who later helped coordinate both of our children's naturalization ceremonies. After I explained the problem, she turned to a huge stack of files on a chair next to her desk, looked through them, and found ours in the middle. We located the missing information, I supplied it, and she replaced the file - but this time on the top of the file. I'm pretty sure we jumped the queue, which brought The Girl to us a good month earlier than expected.

Shock, excitement, and anything but peaceful. The Boy was almost two and a half then, a rambunctious handful. With two days' notice and an unfinished room, we had a lot of work to do to get ready, so I remember putting lots of IKEA furniture together. I remember, too, that Third Dad was a little sad, because The Boy would no longer be the only child. I remember that Third Dad took him to the park all morning of the day The Girl arrived, to have some solid one-on-one daddy-son time.

There had apparently been some confusion about what flight The Girl was arriving on, too, because I remember being called and told to get to the airport fast, followed by another call saying "never mind." We finally left for the airport mid-afternoon. No rush hour this time, no trouble parking. A dear friend was there to take photos and videotape the event. There was only one other family, who were there with their little girl, who was about The Boy's age.

The Boy was full of mischief that day, running all over the place. At one point he apparently snuck behind a ticket counter and tried to turn on the printer. The ticket agent was not amused, and The Boy was banished from the ticket counter area.

I remember no delays with The Girl's flight. And because it was mid-afternoon, the flight wasn't as full as the rush hour flights, so suddenly she was there, in my arms - sound asleep. We simply all gathered around and oohed and aahed, laughed and talked. The Girl woke up, and began to take in her surroundings.

We had a long conversation with her escort, who was a female GI returning from Korea. She lost no time in explaining that The Girl had thrown up on her before they were even over Tokyo, so she smelled like baby puke the entire trip. We laughed until I heard Third Dad saying loudly, "Would someone bring me a kleenex or something quick!!" The Girl had goobed him good - and my friend caught it on video. The Girl thinks it's a hoot, and we love to countdown to it every time we watch.

And then we headed home. I remember a feeling of deep contentment, a sense that our family was now complete.

Where my memories of The Boy's arrival are almost like about-of-body experience, my memories of The Girl's feel deep and calm. The first emotions we felt toward them were so different, too. Where meeting The Boy was like being punched in the gut, The Girl kind of snuck up on us. But I treasure all the memories and hope I can keep them alive forever, just like the love.


Rebecca said…
Marige, Both are such sweet stories. While I've heard the story of how my parents met me, also with almost no notice, you've prompted me to ask my mom again. Thank you for sharing your joy. Hugs, Rebecca
mama2roo said…
Thanks for sharing your stories...everyone's is so different. I liked that you were able to take a few minutes and just sit with your little one alone in the chaos of the airport to get to know him. What a precious moment for you.
Paula O. said…
Beautiful writing, Margie. I just loved reading these stories. Thank you so much for sharing them with us.
Bonggamom said…
How wonderful to read such an intimate, joyful story! Thanks for sharing, welcome to Love Thursday and hope to see more of your posts!
PastorMac's Ann said…
Wonderful memories, amazing stories. My niece came from Korea in 2001 via escort and I remember standing at the gate waiting with a huge group of family and friends and then I remember the moment that she was handed to my SIL. She had lost a sock in her travels and her hair was fuzzy and standing on end.
Away2me said…
Such lovely memories, thanks for sharing them with us. I'm sure your children love hearing about the day they reached your arms.
Schrandt-O-Rama said…
I can hardly think of a day more fraught with so many emotions than the days we spent in Korea meeting our kids and the days we flew home and introduced them to the rest of the family.

Thanks for sharing your stories!
Lisa V said…
What great stories. Thanks for sharing them. I think stories of how we entered a family- through birth, adoption or marriage are always compelling.
Beautiful and well written. Thanks for sharing these touching memories with us.
Mama Nabi said…
Thank you for the stories... and the picture! I had wanted to be an escort in the past but it would have been to emotional for me... I'd have gotten too attached on the plane. On a tangent - I've seen babies with their escorts on planes and, while some are absolutely wonderful, my heart would break whenever I'd see an escort totally treat a baby/toddler as an extra luggage.
Monica said…
Beautiful stories! Thank you for sharing them. I recently found your blog and have been enjoying it very much. As a fairly new mom, you are giving me a lot of insight & things to think about.
mia said…
Margie this was so touching to read. Thank you for sharing such intimate moments with us. It really helps me understand the intense love and emotions that must have been going on with my own parents.
It speaks volumes for you that you took that moment to acknowledge the beauty of your son's natural mother in him, and loving her too. You are a spectacular woman/mother.

Your vacation photos are amazing. I gardened yesterday and am very sad to hear of the pending (I live in PA) snow storm too. I was going to build my raised beds! :o( Take long naps and dream of the beaches.

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