While my short term memory bumbles along, thankfully, some moments in our lives are so strong and edible that they are branded into my mental memory album forever. Eight years ago tomorrow, April 21st, Bill and I awoke early, packed our bags, and went downstairs. The beginning of a new forever was minutes away.
The air was cool. The bouquet of flowers was enormous. Another couple we had met earlier in the week had suggested we give flowers to Mrs. Lee, Will’s foster mother, so she would leave the agency with something beautiful. The previous afternoon, we watched the florist as she built a spectacular hand bouquet.
The other couple was from Maryland, and their beginning was the next day. They joined us on our morning and chatted after we signed a few papers and collected a sealed envelope to handover to immigration officials when we landed at O'Hare. We anxiously watched the door. Soon, six-month-old Will arrived, riding on Mrs. Lee’s back. We were greeted by the same dimpled little smile we first saw a week earlier. Mrs. Lee unbundled Will and he sat on her lap.
Young Dr. Kim, the head of Eastern Social Welfare Society in Seoul, gave us encouraging, thankful words. Then, with his hand on Will, he said a prayer in Korean. We stood up. Awkwardly, bowed and shook hands, not knowing which was appropriate. Mrs. Lee and I looked at each other. I thanked her and then hugged her. We spoke different languages. A hug was the best way I could convey all that I felt for this woman who was Will’s “omma” from when he was just days old.
We all walked to the van waiting outside. I passed the flower bouquet to the woman accompanying Mrs. Lee. Bill and I got into the van, wondering if this was really happening. So gently. So quickly.
Mrs. Lee held Will until we settled. Then…
Bill and I looked at each other as the van pulled away from the agency, out of Seoul, and toward Inch eon airport.
No tears. No music. No fanfare. No car seats. No seat belts. No instruction manual. No English-speaking driver.
Will sat quietly, calmly in Bill’s long arms.
I looked at them both, a smile replacing the shock. “This is it? …This is it!”
The beginning of forever.