Home and Away

This is my home.  My home is not in Haiti.

— Island Boy, December 25, 2010

This is the day we have been waiting for.  Although it’s just a day, all parents anxiously await the first Christmas in which their family is all together.  As you can tell from IB’s spontaneous comment above, this Christmas is our best ever.

I’m thinking back to Christmas 2007.  It was a different life, a different family, a different locale.

Feliz Navidad!

That year, we decided to spend Christmas abroad.  A few days before Noël, Running Girl, Subway Dude, The Fashionista and I hopped a flight to Punto Cana, Domincan Republic to spend a sunny holiday in an exotic location.  We thought it would be “culturally enriching” to spend the holiday in another country.  And, let’s face it, we wanted some sunshine.  It was cool to see Papa Noël arrive by speed boat and land on the beach.

Punta Cana, D.R.

Don’t get me wrong.  It was a great trip.  We all had a wonderful time.

However, even though we didn’t realize it at the time, this was not to be our life.  There was something better for all of us out there.

Back then, I had a good job as an attorney working for a large corporation.  My salary was ample.  The bonuses were overly generous.  Our family could afford almost everything we wanted — including a fancy trip to a luxurious resort on the beach in the Caribbean.

A month after our arrival back in Buffalo, a fantastic job opportunity came my way.  I was offered the chance to open and run a law practice for a downstate firm.  Although the pay was less and the bonuses were not as spectacular, I took the job without hesitation.  I have never looked back.  Although it has not yet taken off as my partners and I had hoped, it is still the greatest job out there.  I am so happy in this gig.  I hope to be there for the rest of my professional life.

November 2008

My life was to change much more profoundly a few months later.  The story of our adoption of Island Boy from Haiti has been told and retold.  In fact, today it is the front page, lead story of The Buffalo News.  We beat out all of the other stories.  I joked with The Fashionista that she is bigger than the Pope, as her photograph is much larger (and more appealing).

The Buffnews story was wonderfully written by Mary Pasciak, a writer whom we had not met before.  Mary devoted a tremendous amount of time to our story (on a Saturday afternoon to accommodate us!) and was clearly very interested in the onion-like complexity of our family history.  It seemed as though each time she peeled back a layer, there was much more story to be told.

Mary recounted our story with uncommon sensitivity and a clear writing style.  She really heard us.  I hope great things will happen for Mary as a result of this piece.

This week, our follow-up story will go out to all continents via the BBC World Service.  BBC correspondent, Jon Manel, has continued to follow our family’s story throughout the year.  We are confident that Jon will handle our story with great care.

Back to Christmas 2010.  Beforehand, Island Boy got it, but really didn’t get it.

Sure, he understood the essential elements of the holiday.  But, we were sure that he did not comprehend what an American Christmas under the tree would be like.  We were right.

On Christmas Eve, we had some trepidation as he is wholly unfamiliar with the concept of giving presents to others.  Also, the entire idea of owning possessions is still kind of new to him.  We worried that he would want ALL the presents — including those of the other family members.

On Christmas morning, Island Boy was filled with joy.  His eyes lit up.  He became appropriately excited.  He was not overly covetous of the riches of others.  He was disillusioned when there were no more gifts to unwrap.  But, no more than any other typical four-year old.

10 seconds after unwrapping his last present

At breakfast, he took our breath away when he uttered the line that I have quoted at the beginning of this post.

Some may reflect on that comment wistfully.  Not I.

I have seen what life was like in Haiti.  I harbor no illusions about what life would have been for this particular orphan.

Without being overly melodramatic, we have doubled Island Boy’s healthy life expectancy.  In terms of this child’s quality of life, I am unsure how to measure the improvement.  He now has access to proper nutrition, electricity, running water (hot and cold), a top-rate education and quality health care.  We have expanded his worldview beyond the four walls of his former environment.

However, perhaps the most important factor is the gift of a family to love him dearly.  This is not to say that we do not honor IB’s birth parents.  Had their family unit survived, we do not doubt that he would have been loved.  But…let’s just say that we are here to continue the good work that they started.

Now let’s look at IB’s impact on us.  It’s simple — he completes our family.  We spent two hard Christmases (in 2008 and 2009) missing him and awaiting his arrival.

Now, he is here, sitting in front of me playing Hungry Hippos with his brother and sister.  I really don’t have words to accurately describe this.

Our old family life with Christmas on the beach was nice.  But it was not home.

Cherish your families.

I wish you peace and joy from our home to yours.

— The Major

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by lisa on December 25, 2010 at 4:07 pm

    Yay. Happy Happy Christmas!

    Reply

  2. Major:
    You get it. You REALLY get what life is all about. And for that, my good friend, you have been rewarded with the brass ring. Enjoy every day of your privliged and well earned life.
    Buddy Joey

    Reply

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