Letters to Gabriel (one)
I want to tell you something before I forget. There are dishes and laundry to be done, and a fridge that is in desperate need of being restocked after 10 days of hosting family. But I want to share this thought before it slips away.
You, my son, are loved.
You’re loved not just by your dad and me, your birth parents and grandparents, aunties and uncles, and cousins. But also by layers of friends, coworkers and neighbors who have taken us into their community as if we were family.
You have been loved since the moment you pulled in your first lungful of oxygen. You had a crowd of people in your delivery room happily forgoing sleep to meet you. But that was just the start.
Since then, the love has washed over you like waves.
The day the revocation period lapsed—which Aaron called the “no-take backs” period—we were ready to celebrate. I hit publish on a blog post I’d saved all week for the day we could publicly announce your arrival. Then we packed up your diaper bag and a couple of 2-ounce bottles (now a long memory—you’re already up to 8-ounce bottles) and walked to one of our favorite restaurants, the Wine Kitchen. It’s the same little spot we’ve celebrated birthdays and anniversaries, and it was our dinner of choice as we wound down, and shed a few tears of joy, after our first foray into foster care. During this visit, the unusually warm October evening begged us to sit outside. The patio was an especially great spot to sit that night because we could people watch, as half of Leesburg strolled through downtown for the First Friday festivities...live music, wine tastings, and art gallery open houses.
“Wow, he looks new,” an older woman who sat next to us said with a smile as I took your hat off, your messy black curls pointing in every direction. “We’re celebrating,” I smiled back, and then told her why. She said she and her husband, who sat with her, considered fostering or adopting but they were turned off by interactions they’d had with agency workers. “So it’s just us now,” she said, before adding that they were excited to welcome a great niece any day now.
“Nadlers!” a work acquaintance who’d seen my post minutes earlier hollered from across the street. “Congratulations!” He dodged traffic to come get a peek at you, and that caught the eye of others, who followed suit.
What happened next made me think back to your dad and my wedding reception,
where we had barely a moment to taste our food because there was just too much celebrating, hugging, and laughing to be done. Similarly, our Wine Kitchen entrées cooled as friend after friend, neighbor after neighbor, and people who we’d never met but who’d heard about this long longed-for child through the grapevine stopped to congratulate us and to get a glimpse of our wild-haired boy, who snored through it all.
At one point the waitress gave me a polite but telling glance; too many people had lined up to see you, leaving no room for her to serve others seated on the patio. So we paid our bill, packed up, and rolled you up the street where there was a touch more sidewalk room to hug and talk and pinch your cheeks, until we finally decided to call it a night.
Aaron and I took the long way home that night. We walked past restaurants and breweries that bounced with bluesy solos and acoustic guitars, but it was your coffee-colored eyes that held our attention.
In the three months since that night, the love, the joy, the giving has continued. There have been very few days that were not brightened by a gift for you. It’s felt like 98 days of Hanukkah. A neighbor delivered a pumpkin hat and a friend dropped off a costume for your first Halloween. Another friend brought you a “first Thanksgiving” bib. Books and fluffy bears and red-stripped pajamas found their way under the tree for your first Christmas. Friends as close as a block away and as far away as South Dakota hand-crafted a quilt, a knitted blanket, a knitted hat—all pieced together with diligence, patience and love.
You, my son, are loved.
In this moment, as you snort and stretch during your much-needed afternoon nap, I day-dream about the moment you realize just how loved you are. If that knowing does only one thing, I pray it prompts a desire—a need—to love back.
Photo by Haley Bouffard/Finding Muchness Films