A few weeks ago, LoML began to ask if there's a scrapbook about her. She is just starting to tiptoe into adolescence and I can tell that deep, almost impenetrable question of "who am I?" is starting to take shape--and shape her. Funny she asked. About 4 years ago, I started on one. I even found scrapbook materials for adoptions and I, who am not particularly into cute, had a ball buying all kinds of really cute stuff for that book. And then it sat on a shelf for the next 4 years, only the title page and first page completed.
Every day, LoML asked me, "Mami, did you work on my scrapbook"--and finally one day about 2 weeks ago, I got started. Oh my God, retracing the steps of that journey has been a journey in itself. Everything is so vivid: the memories, the pictures, the emotions. A few things stand out--Spouseman and I were surrounded by our community and his family during those 20 months it took to bring her home. But there is no picture, no card, nothing that speaks of my family except this: a few pictures where LoML is wearing the most exquisite dresses imaginable. Dresses my mother gave her, reaching across brokeness and estrangement in the only way she knew how. LoML's gotcha day, March 4, 2001, I could hardly wait to get her into one of my mama's dresses. We were going to stay at the apartment of an acquaintance and we got there while M was out. I literally changed my little girl into one of the dresses in the hallway. Her first night home, she slept in a nightgown my mom had given her. I am both incredibly glad that at least there are those traces, and deeply sad all over again that my mom, my dad, my brothers, my family of origin are so totally absent from that time in my life.
Along with celebrating LoML's gotcha day in a couple of weeks, she and I are leaving a week from Sunday to go to Panama. My mom has taken another bad turn with the cancer--markers doubling and tripling in weeks instead of months, a lot more pain, a new large tumor on her spinal cord. During our time with her and my dad, something quite extraordinary is also going to happen: Ligia, my second mother, is going to be joining us in Panama for a few days. My daughter will actually get to be in the same space with me and my two mothers, if only for a very brief time. As soon as she saw me begin to make progress on the scrapbook, she informed me that we needed to take it to Panama. She can't possibly understand what it does to my heart to think about Abuelita Ligia and Abuelita Nita, LoML, and I sitting together, retracing those steps, passing over from life to death and death to life, all at once.
LoML on her first night home