Closing the door to his closet, I turn slowly as he nonchalantly says, “Mom, I don’t know why I call you mom. You are not my mother.” My pulse quickens as I face him, his lean body secured beneath the covers, like a well-wrapped burrito. He is not angry or mad. He is matter of fact. And nothing is out of the ordinary on this evening. This is our nightly routine.
Luca’s thoughts about his adoption seem to come out of thin air; random ruminations that don’t logically connect to the conversation we were having just a second prior. I imagine what he allows to escape his lips is the tip of an iceberg, the bulk of which drifts far beneath the surface, sometimes lost in a silent sea, but other times colliding with something artificial, exposing its rough edges and pushing it to the surface.
He has known his story since he was able to understand English. Paul and I have been intentional about explaining his providential path. I sang it to him, in fact, every night. A homemade lullaby about the power of God’s plan, and two crazy kids who boarded an airplane for a far away, mystical land. As he aged, we discussed the fact that he did not come from my stomach, but another’s. A woman who loved him enough to give him a chance at life. Surface, but truth. Every time we celebrated this fact, I watched for his reaction. Mostly silence. Not dumb silence, either. Thoughtful, pensive, inward. No questions. No anxiety. Just a resolute contentment. He was mostly quiet, in fact, until last year. Last year, he became un-quiet. And out of nowhere, like stray bullets, his thoughts penetrated the silence.
“You are not my birth mother. Someone else was. Did you ever meet her?”
“What does she look like?”
“Does she have a strange face?”
“What if she is not a good person?”
Believe me, I read the book. Or books . . . yes, all the books. Adoption books. I’ve written about them before, in fact. They are helpful, useful and important. The problem is that all the books in the world cannot account for each individual journey to this truth. Every soul has to come to terms with this familial arrangement in its own way. In its own time. And every stage of Luca’s life will bring a new revelation of his needs. Needs I might not know, until he is ready to tell me. Until that iceberg reveals itself inch by frozen inch. I’ve just got to have the patience to wait him out and more importantly, the grace to listen.
“Luca, I did not give birth to you. That is true. But let me ask you this. What is the definition of a mother? What does it mean to be a mother?”
He ponders for a moment, “Someone who takes care of you. All of you. All the time.”
“So by that definition?” I ask.
“You are my mother.”
I love you, Luca. Always and forever. No matter what. -Mom