“I’ll love you forever
I’ll like you for always
As long as I’m living
My baby you’ll be.”
-“Love You Forever” by Robert Munsch
It began, like most conversations with him do, in the front seat of a car late at night. He is a young man who doles out words to his mother on an “as needed’ basis. It usually takes an enclosed space with no chance of escape or three hours of driving to get him talking. As the mile markers clicked past between St. Paul and home, he told me that he’d like to take a trip back to Korea which got me talking about what I know and what I don’t about his first year of life there.
Luckily, when you are in the process of adopting you learn to keep every scrap of paper the agency sends you. The documents, forms, and photographs become what you hold onto until the time when you finally hold your child. And then, once that happens,and you’ve fallen completely in love with that child, you live in fear that someone is going to show up and ask for proof that you were actually worthy of such a blessing. You just do. Because you are kind of neurotic that way. And because adopting a child is a whole lot more complicated than loving one is.
And so, the next day I pulled all the documents I’d kept concerning his adoption out of closets and cupboards. I found his passport from Korea with the picture of a tiny, bald, red-faced baby boy in a blue sleeper and looked through the medical reports and his social worker’s notes. Then, since I was already more than a few miles down memory lane, I looked through his baby book with my meticulous notes about his first steps….first words….first friends. Milestones in the life of a small boy.
I came to the page with the heading “The Things You Said” and was immediately reminded of how he would say “my arm is too far” if he couldn’t reach something and how he’d wrap his arms around my neck and say “I love you TOO MUCH!” How he’d once looked at me and asked, quite seriously, “Mama, when I’m a big man, what will YOU be?” after I’d read the book Love You Forever to him for about the fifteenth time in one week.
What will I be? You asked me that question twenty two years ago. And yet, most of the time it seems we have arrived here in your adulthood in the flutter of a butterfly’s wings. Here’s my answer…
I am the mom who rocked you back and forth. The one who still needs to teach you how to iron a dress shirt for a job interview. I’m both more gray and more grateful for everything than I was the first time you asked me that question many years ago. The one who is proud of the man you grew up to be and who looks forward to more “firsts” in your life. The one who tries really hard not to be like the mother in the book with the light blue cover who, let’s face it, made kind of a nuisance of herself for longer than was probably healthy for anyone in the story. I’m working on not being that mom. I am.
Your mom. Yup. That’s my answer.
Forever and for always.