Meeting Him, Part II

Part I

… We rounded the corner, and there he was.  He was sitting in a baby walker looking out the glass patio door at a cat sitting in the backyard, exactly like a video of him that I have watched a thousand times.  He heard us approaching and curiously turned to look at us, unaware of the gravity of the moment.

His searching blue eyes met mine, and just like that, my whole world stopped turning …

 

Part II

I had dreamed of this moment so many times, only to wake up in the night and remind myself that it wasn’t real.  Now, standing there with him in front of me, staring up at me, I closed my eyes for a moment and shook my head, willing myself to wake up if this was a dream and get the sad realization over with.  But no.  I was really standing there, in a house in a village in a country on the other side of the world.  The last sixteen months of stress and waiting and paperwork, the last week of travel and adjustment, the last hour of intense anticipation.  The last twenty-five years of my life.  It felt as all though all of it were building to this exact moment.

I had been walking in the front of the group, but seeing Baby W stopped me dead in my tracks, and I realized this as the rest of the group bumped into me and then shuffled around me, leaving me standing there staring.  Baba gestured to the wrap-around couch, asking us to sit.  I obeyed, stumbling as I walked because I couldn’t take my eyes off him.  He was the most beautiful little boy in the entire world.  As those words ran through my head like an absolute fact, not an opinion, I had a momentary flashback to a conversation with Alex months ago.  We had laughed about how every parent thinks their baby is the most beautiful baby in the world.  But looking down at my son’s wispy blond hair, oval eyes the color of the ocean, and deliciously chubby cheeks with just the hint of dimples … I was convinced that no one would disagree.  Hands down, he was the one.

I realized I was now sitting on the couch, on the portion that extended out away from the wall like a long footrest, with Alex next to me on the end of the footrest, and Katarzyna closest on the other side of me on the main body of the couch.  Had she been there the whole time?  I remembered that for the last several minutes, I had not seen or acknowledge any of my surroundings apart from the tiny boy in front of me.  Sitting on the couch, my back was to Baby W, so I twisted around in my seat to watch him, ignoring the conversations happening around me in Polish.

Alex and I rehearsed this moment a thousand times, constantly reminding ourselves to keep our expectations low.  Baby W’s reaction to us would certainly fall somewhere on the spectrum between indifferent to terrified, as we were complete strangers.  Again and again, we told each other not to hold on to some romantic Hollywood image of him running to us, happy we had finally arrived to whisk him away to happily ever after.  Up until now, he probably had no idea that we existed, and no way of knowing that our lives would be intertwined forever.  Our goal was to let him guide this first interaction, and not push him out of his comfort zone in any way to allow his first moments with us to be as positive an experience as possible for him.  We would not rush up to him, we would not reach out to him.  We would allow him to come to us, understanding that he probably wouldn’t.

And yet, sitting there, with the busy Polish conversations swirling around just feet from us, it was like the three of us were in our own little world.  Alex and I were twisted on the footrest to face him.  He studied us slowly, taking us in.  There was no fear in his eyes, just curiosity.  Then with the slow, deliberate pace of an unsteady toddler in a walker, he confidently came toward us.  His eyes locked on Alex as he approached and we froze, not wanting to break the spell of this moment.  Baby W slid into the space in front of Alex, stretching his chubby hands out and placing them on Alex’s knee.  My hand flew to my mouth and my eyes stung with tears.

Starting there, his baby eyes slowly moved up Alex, connecting again with his face.  Baby W leaned forward, peering with all his might at the strange man in front of him, like he was trying to pull the face from some long-ago memory.  Suddenly, his eyes lit up.  His face broke into an enormous, open-mouth grin and joy radiated from his little soul, like something in him told him who this man was.  He bounced his hands up and down on Alex’s knee, giggling with glee.  Alex reached out and caught one of the little hands momentarily in his own, smiling and softly speaking to his son.  I have considered Alex a father for months now, but in this moment, right before my eyes, he became a Daddy.

It suited him.

Baby W then turned to me, still grinning from ear to ear.  He couldn’t come any closer because of the coffee table next to us, but he turned and pounded his little hands on the table, locking his eyes with mine.  I smiled back, lifting a hand near my face to wiggle my fingers in his direction.  He paused for the briefest moment, and blew a raspberry sound in my direction and giggled.

Baba laughed and declared something in Polish, and I remembered that there were other people in the room.  Anna translated that Baby W’s favorite nurses in the hospital had taught him that, and even though she was currently trying to break him of it, he only blew those raspberry kisses to his favorite people.  He already likes you, she said.  My eyes met Baba’s, and an understanding passed momentarily between us, like a secret.  She nodded ever so slightly at me as our eyes held, and I nodded back.  A subtle, silent, passing of the torch.

Baby W giggled again, and I remembered I was holding the wrapped package that contained Polski, the cuddly teddy bear Alex and I had made at Build-A-Bear recently to distract ourselves from the pain of waiting.  A lifetime ago.  Slowly, I placed the gift on the coffee table and slid it towards him.  He tested it with his fingers, turning to look at Baba as if to ask her permission.  What a little gentleman.  Baba came over and swept the gift and Baby W into her arms in one motion, sitting them both on the couch.  She placed the package on his lap and rustled the paper, murmuring to him in Polish.

He tore a piece off, revealing Polski’s soft face.  Baby W’s eyes jerked up from the bear and bounced around between each of the faces in the room, grinning larger than ever.  His little hands balled into fists and he shook them excitedly next to his face.  Pure joy.

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For another brief moment, his eyes met mine.  I grinned back at him, waving my fingers again and blowing him a kiss.  He giggled, blew a forbidden raspberry kiss back and buried his face in the fur of the teddy bear, giggling.

In that moment, I knew.  We were a family, each reveling in the shared joy of that magical revelation.

 

 

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  • Kathy Kalous

    Oh my gosh, I’m reading this before church with tears in my eyes. Your story just brings joy to me. But I’m going to have to repair the eye makeup. Lol.

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