As much as Noah has caused me a handful of grey hairs on top of a serious case of I- can’t-trust-you-as-far-as-I-can-throw-you’s the one thing he has gifted with me that I cherish more than anything in the almost four years he has been in our family is his ability to allow me perspective in life. It was within a few days of his arrival that the first wave of perspective washed over me at the most unusual moment in time. Let me share with you that moment, in the fall of 2008, on the night of Hannah’s freshman homecoming dance.:
Last Saturday we had a “Noah Moment of Perspective” in regards to Hannah’s homecoming evening. Noah’s reaction was a moment I will never forget. It is a reminder of how far apart our cultures really are.
Hannah and her girlfriends met at our house to do their make-up and hair. He walked in the room where all the girls were dressed to the nines and waiting for their dates to arrive. Motioning me to lean my ear his way he whispered, “beautiful girls.”
When the boys showed up, he just stood silently in the wings , watching as they exchanged corsages and boutonnieres. I could tell his mind was racing with confused thoughts. When everyone started filing out to the front yard for pictures Noah began to panic. He ran to me and started crying, “Hannah. Go. Boy.” He thought this fancy dress-up was some ceremony where we were passing Hannah on to her boyfriend’s family. Think about it though…my mom, the elder, came in from out of town. Flowing long dresses the likes of which he had never before seen. Fancy up-do hair. The exchange of flowers and innocent hugs. It was an American experience he had never witnessed with his beautiful innocent brown eyes.
Hannah knelt down to Noah and talked to him, comforted him, told him she’d be back later, gave him big hugs, and told him she loved him. He calmed down enough for me to go outside with the rest of the moms for pictures. I was in the middle of snapping pictures when, from behind me, I heard an insistent beat of a drum . Noah had gone inside and found the cow hide Ethiopian drum I brought home a few weeks earlier and was repetitively pounding the drum to a rhythmic beat while tears streamed down his face. Constant. Unyielding. Over and over for the next fifteen minutes or so while pictures were being taken. Finally the kids were ready to file into the fifteen passenger van. Wide eyed, he watched, as Hannah climbed into the van and then he turned his head into my body and sobbed. In his sweet innocence he thought we had just married Hannah off and that she was leaving our home…forever.
Jeff and I brought him back inside and tried to calm him down. But I ask you, how do you tell a six year old Ethiopian boy who understands about as much English as the family pet that his new sister isn’t getting married and will be back later that night.? You can’t. You just have to rely on the hands of time and a whole lot of patience and hope that he will get it. That he will understand.
You can only imagine his thrill when Hannah walked out of her bedroom Sunday morning. She smiled a good morning smile to him and he jumped into her arms and wouldn’t let go. She. Came. Back!
So my moment of perspective… how flowers, beautiful dresses, and fancy hair within two completely different cultures can have such different meanings in the eyes of a six year old little boy and also how amazing it is that in just one months time this little boy has fallen so in love with his big sister that the thought of her not in his life brought him to genuine tears.
Today. Four years later. Dorm room accents are piling up around the corner. Black and red Seattle U stickers are on the car. Our Hannah is leaving. She really is leaving. Fortunately in Noah’s four years in our family he has come to understand the American way. He has come to understand that good-byes do not mean forever. He has come to understand permanence. Stability. Lastingness. Longevity. Durability.
This is my perspective today. In a few weeks time Hannah will be swept away into a thrilling new world, and we, her family, will be standing on the lawn, metaphorically and through our tears beating a drum as she enters a new chapter of her life. But just like four years ago, on that beautiful day-after-homecoming morning, she will be back. It may not be the next morning, but she will be back because we have taught all of our children the meaning of stability. Lastingness. Longevity. Durability.
We have taught our kids the meaning of Family.