So many things have already happened, and I find that despite my fears, my logical declarations, my practical positioning, this little boy is worming his way into my heart.
But it’s not happening the way that I thought it would. I have been in love with an imagined person projected upon a picture. And although I knew that it would be different, what I didn’t realize was how shadowy my picture really was.
In the trenches of reality, love is born. It is a seed, a moment, and it steals softly as it drifts through a hard situation, an unmet expectation. Here are some of those moments.
It was in the mess of his arrival. He came a day later than he was supposed to. To make a long, frustrating saga short, he was one of The Twelve: twelve children who, through airport clerical error, were not allowed onto the first plane in Riga. They were stuck for a full day. Flights were rearranged and replanned for the next day. Then they missed a connection in Munich. Rerouted again, they flew to Dulles, and I picked him up there around 8pm yesterday, and then had a four hour drive home. Last minute doubts were washed so completely away in that desperation to get my boy home. He was mine. Mine no matter what. Mine if only for the summer. But I wanted him. And I wanted this fight.
It was in the second I saw him. Looking for that dark brown hair, I missed him. Panic that he wasn’t really there. And then, there! That smile. His arms open, running to me. Clinging to me. Then he retreated emotionally for the rest of the night. But I felt it.
It was when, with two sleeping boys in the back, I turned on whatever CD was in the player, and I found his lullaby, and I sang it over him the whole rest of the way home. I didn’t know him at all, really, but I wanted to. And I wanted those words to become reality for us both.
It was in his breathless “whoa….” when I opened our front door. And I said, “Sveki?” (hello/welcome) and he said, “Ja, sveki…” in wonder.
It was in the 3:00am manic, overtired defiance of a jet-lagged boy daring me to keep on. And I kept on. The strength for it came mostly out of my own manic, overtired spite given right back to him. But the dance of daring and keeping on…it is perfectly orchestrated by One who knows exactly how to build trust and security through it.
It was in his smile when I told him he could choose four Hot Wheels cars at a garage sale this morning. And then seeing that, already, he could not hide the joy away as quickly.
It was in the way that he glanced at Little Man as they played, surreptitiously shadowing him, watching for clues. Maybe he thought no one saw, or maybe he didn’t even realize he was doing it. But I saw.
It was in the way he giggled at us. But more than that…it was the reality of that giggle. So different from the laugh he makes when he is defiant. Hearing real joy bubble out of someone who is clearly using laughter as a way to protect himself and hide emotions is thrilling and heartbreaking all at the same time.
It was in the way that he manipulated me at dinner. He didn’t want to sit any longer, and so he said “tualete” (bathroom), and I saw it…that look every mom knows. The look that says, “I know you know I don’t really need to go, but I also know you can’t say no, because what if I really DO have to go…and I know I can use it and you know I’m using it, but I’m still going to say it, so there.” And suddenly he’s not a foreigner, or a stranger. He’s a little boy daring you in a way that crosses all cultural barriers.
He’s just a boy hungry for love.
And it whispers but doesn’t speak. It flickers but doesn’t linger. It rises but is quickly suppressed.
And if I blink, I won’t see it. If I get caught in the struggles and the walls and the surface response, I won’t feel it.
I say this because I know there is more coming. I know that I will need to come back to this post myself and be reminded that from the beginning, he was asking me to love him. Awkwardly, defiantly, cautiously, quietly.
And tonight, I saw proof that it not just my love that he is seeing. When he read his affirmation to me tonight, “Soccer Boy is quick to help others,” there was something in his eyes. Something those words touched in him that I don’t know and I don’t understand. His little face…it was like cool water washed over him. Living water. I was simply the unwitting vessel.
And so I sang him his lullaby, and rubbed his back, and he hid his face as I whispered, “Man esi mīļ, lācītis.” And as he slipped into sleep in my arms, he slipped into my heart just a little more.
I love you today and I love you tomorrow
I love you as deep as the sea
I love you in joy and I love you in sorrow
You can always come home to me