"Hi Lucy." He bent over, looked at her small upturned face, and placed his hand gently on the top of her head. "My goodness, you have gotten big. I knew you when you were still in your mommy's belly!"
I froze. She stared up at him for a moment, just that extra beat that only a parent would notice, and then dropped her chin and stared at the plate of food in her lap, chewing slowly. She stole a glance at me from under her eyelashes. Questioning. I couldn't tell if the question was "Who is this moron and what is he talking about?" or if the question was "Is it true? Did it happen like that?"
Because I know she wants it to have happened like that. She wants to have grown in my belly. She spends more and more time exhaustively scanning her baby album, and Max's album, looking for photos of my pregnancy. As if all she needs to do is just find some evidence, and everything will be right in the world.
But just as everything will never be right in this crazy mixed up world, she will never find a photo of me, pregnant with her.
It never happened.
You wouldn't know it from looking at us. "Nature versus nurture!" her teachers grin. She is a little tiny version of me. Fiery and sweet, strong-willed and eager to please. She has started to roll her eyes at her older brother's antics, and scold him for even the minor transgressions. It is clear to everyone - even people who know the story, even people who mean well - that she is my daughter. It is so clear, in fact, so obvious, so apparent that I am her mother, that everyone forgets the details.
The details don't matter, of course - but her adoption was such a startling event for all of us, I find it hard to believe anyone could have forgotten. There was no real lead up to her arrival - we had no baby, no sign of a baby, no baby stuff, no baby shower. And then suddenly one day, there she was strapped to my chest or sleeping in my arms or sitting in the carseat. We had a baby!? How did that happen!? And everyone from the cashier at the grocery to the mailman wanted to know where that baby came from. It was a subject of much conversation and endless celebration and frequent congratulations and a lot of tears and laughter and wonder at the incredible good fortune of everyone involved. Which is why it still surprises me when people forget.
Our friends, our family....hell, even Sam forgets sometimes. But not Lucy. She doesn't forget. And I don't either. If I were to forget, I would miss the opportunity I take every day to be grateful. I would miss the opportunity to appreciate the gift that is my daughter, and the gift I was given to be her mother.
So to the people who forget. To the people who remember only that she is mine and I am hers? That is my gift to you. You forget because it is no longer important. It is only a very small piece of the puzzle - the first sentence in a long story. Nature, nurture, and otherwise, we will always be mother and daughter.
And for the brief time in the early morning hours following her birth, while they were waiting for the sun to rise before calling with the news?
That was all the time we needed, she and I, to find each other in this great big universe.
And that, more than anything, is a testament to our bond. I am hers. She is mine.
Which is, in the end, all you need to remember.
7 minutes ago