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Letters to Gabriel (six)

Tonight I get to attend an awards banquet that celebrates young leaders in the community. I’m not among the honorees. No, tonight I just get to enjoy wine and food and friends.

But on this same week last year, I was one of the honorees. And, believe it or not, I remember not wanting to go. It wasn’t the fact that I had to shave my legs. Or dig out my high-heels from the closet. That would all be worth it for a night like this. (I mean, a paid-for dinner, drinks, and loud applause followed by flashing cameras and, yes, an award that I knew would look great on my desk. All in a banquet hall that overlooked a beautiful vineyard.)

No, I didn’t want to go because I had something more meaningful on my mind. Something I was more excited about. And more nervous about. See, earlier that day, your dad and I met your birth mom for the first time. Over sandwiches and iced tea, she told us that she could have this baby (that’s you, my man) any moment. And she’d like us to raise him.

We got in our cars, and I looked up at your dad with no words, my mouth gaping. Finally, words came. “I’ll call the lawyer.”

Parked in front of TGIFridays, I called and hired an adoption attorney for us, an attorney for your birth mom, and a social worker to update our home study. And, with each phone call, I realized just how unprepared we were.

Sure, we’d wanted children for several years. We even made up a children’s room in case they came. And they did, but only in spurts. Children in foster care, nieces and nephews, and friends’ kids had enjoyed weekend sleepovers in that room. They read the books on the shelves your dad hand-made. They played with the Legos a friend let us borrow. And they slept in the day bed we bought with our future children in mind. But the room wasn’t a place for babies. There was no crib. No rocking chair. No special trashcan that somehow masks your poop’s aroma.

Thoughts of all the ways we weren’t ready sent my mind racing. I wanted to run to Walmart and buy out the whole baby aisle. I wanted to stay up all night filling out required paperwork. Just in case. I mean, what if you arrived tonight? Would we miss the chance to call you ours?

When I told your dad I’d rather not go, he assured me, “come on, it will be fun.” When I glared back at him, he added, “it will help you relax.” He was right there. So I reluctantly pulled on my cocktail dress and refreshed my deodorant.

We couldn’t tell anyone that night what, or who, was on our mind. So you felt like a little secret that we (cautiously optimistically) celebrated with each raised glass. We stepped outside to take a selfie. Couldn’t miss a chance when we’re all dressed up. Aaron snapped the photo below and offered one more toast, or maybe it was more of a prayer.

“This could be one of our last nights as just us.” We gently clinked our glasses.

In a couple of hours, I’ll kiss you goodnight and again make my way back to that banquet hall. With your dad out of town, I think I’ll take a minute to walk outside by myself. To look at the sun setting over the rows of grapevines and the Blue Ridge Mountains. And to reflect on that toast God faithfully heard and answered one year ago.

There may be no more awards or accolades in my future. That’s ok. I’ve got something I’m more excited about.

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