Friday, December 08, 2006

I'm Kind of Glad They Don't Let You Wait at the Gate Anymore

As Lumpyhead reaches certain age milestones, I find myself measuring them against where my brother and I were in the adoption process.

My parents know more about my brother’s biological family and circumstances than they do mine. I arrived when I was 14 months old, and heard - as a bedtime story - the tale about how they drove to Minneapolis to get me. They waited for the great big bird to land, and then eagerly watched baby after baby parade by.

“That one’s a boy, keep looking.”
“A girl! Is she ours? Nope, someone else’s name was called.”
“Twins! Cute.”
“Is that one ours?”
“How about that one?”

My parents had received a couple of pictures of me, but the photos weren’t recent and they couldn’t recognize me by appearance. Anxious, hopeful people around them were replaced by overjoyed new parents being introduced to their children. Amidst squeals and tears, eventually the number of people in the gate area began to dwindle.

My parents started to worry that I wasn’t on the plane.

Then, the last passenger off the plane carried a child, and my parents finally heard their name called.

When I flew home from college, back when my parents could still meet me in the gate area, they would invariably make some reference to me being last off the plane that first time. If I had a seat in the back of the plane, I would hear “you’re always the last one off” before “hello.” If I was assigned a seat somewhere in the middle, they would express surprise that I wasn’t “the last one off the plane this time.” Every. Single. Time.

I would roll my eyes and think, “Do you have to make that comparison every time I get off a plane? Jesus, it’s been twenty years.” Now I’m not sure why I thought that was so dumb. Why wouldn’t you be reminded of such an important moment in your life, when you became a parent again?

When we brought Lumpyhead to Minnesota in July, he was 14 months old. This coincidence did not go unnoticed by my mother. Or me.

My brother arrived when he was 18 months old; Lumpyhead is 18 months old now. The difference between the toddler he is now and the baby he was four months ago is astounding. I wonder how much babies retain, how much they’re influenced by their surroundings. While I have no memory of arriving in a new place or bonding with new people, I don’t know that the same is true for my brother.

While we both had some separation anxiety issues growing up, I think Ron’s transition was more traumatic than mine (more on Ron). When I consider the difference in Lumpyhead’s cognitive abilities between July and now, I’m amazed the experience doesn’t affect Ron more. Or, maybe it does, but in ways that are more subtle than conscious memories.

At any rate, Lumpyhead is in for a pretty significant change soon himself: the arrival of his sister. I wonder how that will impact his world or change his personality. Will he remember being the center of the universe before his sister arrived? Will he resent her? Or will he only know a world where she exists, tagging along behind him and trying to steal his toys?


Sarah, Goon Squad Sarah said...

I have very vague memories of my brother as a baby and I was three when he was born. I was happy to have someone to play with.

Jill said...

I love this post. Our older boys were 6 and 7 1/2 when we adopted them and it is so strange to think of their lives before us.

I love that your mom always expected you to be the last off the plane. Those little specific memories of the first time you meet your adopted child really linger. Very much like the funny specific memories that stick with you from the birth of a child.

E :) said...

I think Lumpyhead will be really excited to have someone to play with and protect. I agree with Jill - this post is fantastic.

Anonymous said...

Lou was 19 months old exactly when the twins came along. He seems to have trouble understanding that they weren't always here, although he remembers things from when they WEREN'T here......he'll sometimes say "but where were the babies?"
I suppose space and time are tough concepts when you are 4.

Em said...

I am kind of glad you were on that plane. Thanks for the great post. My eyes are moist.

laurie said...

that's a sweet story.

i'll be very interested to hear about lumpyhead once akutaq is born. i hope his hair has grown out by then! or else akutaq will always make fun of him for how he looked when she came along.