Thirteen years ago, I was (well actually we were) trying to adopt and it was spring. I was talking to everyone who would talk to me and who knew anything about adoption.
That spring I would often walk from my car to the apartment building after work, and often I would see a woman, a white woman, with the most beautiful, alive, smiling little baby girl–sometimes sitting on their stoop, sometimes walking around the neighborhood. Her daughter was not white– and I assumed single mom and adoption. Eventually I found a way to start a conversation and we got to know each other. I was only half wrong– she was a single mother by choice, of a biracial, African American daughter– born to her, J.
Back then our two families added up to four and we all turned out to be pretty crazy about each other and got to be friends. We went to some birthday parties, got together sometimes, and for a year we took J. to preschool once a week, when her mom, a school teacher, had to be at work early. When my daughter was born and came to us, J. was four. She and J. adored each other from the start. Ours was the doorbell they rang years ago at 3 a.m. when their apartment building caught fire and was completely gutted. Now J. is about 5’8″– taller than I am by several inches– and in eighth grade at the same K-8 school where my daughter goes to school. Sometimes she babysits. I like her a lot.
I’m having a relatively minor health problem but am feeling more than a little punk. The big bear of standardized testing is going on this week at school, so timeliness is essential (not always our strong suit), and there was a driving rain going when it was time to leave for school. On top of that I wrongly accused my daughter of getting glue all over a favorite backpack of mine that she borrowed– just as we were leaving. All this to say that very grouchy, rushed and crabby was the flavor-of-the-day as we left for school. We got into the car.
When we came around the corner in the driving rain, we saw J. who walks to school on her own, on her way. Walking with a friend of indeterminate gender. Both in hooded cotton sweatshirts (not great in a rainstorm) and J. towering in height above her friend. J. was also carrying an umbrella which was inside out from the wind. I said to my daughter, roll down your window and call to J. to come ride with us. It took us two tries for me to position the car and for my daughter to summon a loud enough voice, but we got her attention and offered a ride.
J. hesitated– then said, well, can my friend come too? Of course, come, come get in the car. They sloshed into the car, my daughter moved over and the smaller person turned out to be the son of my partner’s wonderful co-coach of the 4th an 5th grade girls’ basketball team.
We drove the next six blocks, made our way around the fleet of SUV’s and minivans and other huge vehicles dropping children at school and I found a spot to pull over. J. and her friend got out and took off running before the hard “g” in g’bye” made it out of my mouth. My grouchy daughter and cranky me looked at them flying through the rain, looked at each other and cracked up. She leaned over and kissed me (not an always thing these days) and ran into school.