I walked away from Penelope’s room. I heard a faint cry as I stood in the kitchen. When I checked the video monitor I saw her arms in the air, stuck in her pajama top. She attempted to take it off and got the arms turned around somehow. She was straighjacketed and unable to move. I went into Penelope’s room and wrangled her top off.
“Are you hot sweetie, do you need to take off your top?” I couldn’t figure out how she managed to restrict herself with her own pajamas. If she weren’t coughing I would have laughed. I removed the top and picked her up to sooth her. “Let’s get some water.”
I held her close, head on my shoulder, and walked into the kitchen. She held her cup took a few sips. “Mama, doggie” she said. I didn’t know what she was talking about. “Mama, doggie”. Penelope pointed at a picture of Jenn and one of our dogs sitting together on the couch. “That’s right sweetie!” I said. I carried her back to her room, looking at the green stars projected on the walls and ceiling.
“I love you. See you in the morning” I said.
“Blankie” she said.
“Ok.” I grabbed her blanket and covered her up. “You’ll stay warm enough with the blanket.” I told her, but really talking to myself.
The scene replayed itself in my mind. I couldn’t be sure but it almost sounded like she was choking when I went into the room after looking at the monitor. What if I had taken the trash out or went straight to our bedroom instead of staying close to her room? My mind created scenarios to keep me anxious. If I kept thinking thoughts like these I would go mad.
Earlier in the evening I sat on the floor while Penelope played with bubbles in the bathtub. I just stared at her. It could have been the longing in the music playing at that moment or the influence of reading about adoption. As I stared at her I thought about her life up to this point. Penelope has experienced more in the first three years of her life than any child should have to. Abandonment, multiple surgeries, separation from her friends and caretakers, and nearly a day flying over the Pacific to a new world. Yet here was our daughter smiling and playing.
In adoptive circles they say there is an invisible red thread that connects us to all the people who will affect us in our lives. It is used to refer to the mystical connection adoptive parents have to their children on the other side of the world. If the thread exists then it also connects us to the mother and father that gave life to our children.
For a moment I thought of her mother and father in China, the ones who could not, for whatever unfathomable reason, watch their daughter experience the joy of taking a bubble bath.
This is not one of the “red threads” that gets mentioned before you adopt. The family that gave birth to our daughter is always with us, whether we meet them or not. We will always be connected, regardless of distance, physical contact, or if we ever say a word to each other. It makes me wonder, do other adoptive families experience this? If so, do they talk about it?
The thought vanished as quickly as it arrived. I continued to watch Penelope force foam letters into a container while she said “wash you”.
Why am I spending so much time writing and thinking about the past, about where Penelope came from and how she ended up in our arms? Because I can’t help it. The chances of Penelope considering her life circumstances leading up to adoption as “low importance” seem minuscule. To neglect it would be to neglect her. Potentially. She may read this one day and think “wow, he cared about my parents more than I do”. I consider that unlikely.
I’ve learned a few things about myself these last few years. One of them is to follow my thoughts. They often lead to unexpected and beneficial outcomes. I’m curious to see where this all leads. If you are too then continue reading!