Friday, February 25, 2011

I'm sitting at a local lunch counter with Willa. Minutes ago she was her normal giddy self, when one comment suddenly caused her eyes to fill with tears and that well-known cloud to descend over her face. She said something about when she used to speak Spanish. I chuckled and reminded her that it was Amharic. This was the wrong way to react, and there was no consoling her. "I should have never watched Dora!" she cried.

She can't remember a word of Amharic, and can only remember a fraction of what Saffron can remember about life in Ethiopia. Both girls feel somewhat helpless and scared about this inevitable loss of memory, but Willa rarely feels it so acutely. Pretty soon she was on my lap in tears. She said she doesn't wish she had never come to America--she just wishes she could have both Ethiopia and America in her mind. No matter what we've tried, the one seems to push out the other. We'll make some more video of them telling memories tomorrow, and watch some home videos of Ethiopia, but all we can do only slightly slows the flow. And I understand--if Jasper and Ruby had been adopted into an Ethiopian family I would want them to remember their old life here, too.

I'm so grateful we picked up the girls and saw their homeland with our own eyes. I can't imagine helping them through this without that perspective. I want to take them back to visit as soon as we can afford it, and get them an Amharic tutor as soon as they want it. Otherwise, they will have to deal with the loss of Ethiopia the way we all deal with all kinds of loss, and will be stronger for it.

Happy Willa is back now. But it was probably a good reminder for me to see the depth of feeling, of grieving, that a five-year-old can have. Ask anyone who's seen it--when she gets that look in her eyes, she could be a million years old.


Anonymous said...

This was a lovely post--it makes me stop and consider how my experiences shut me out from my history, too. Because my history isn't as dramatically different as Willa's, it might be less noticeable but still profound. Even Jasper and Ruby are shut out from parts of their past. It's an odd thought, and I'm glad you're giving us Willa's perspective to make that real.

But I must admit that my first reaction was to say to myself, "a lunch counter? In 2011?"

Melissa said...

I've have a lesser case of this with swapping countries Emily.
It's why I had a rough first few months here, I refused to embrace anything american in hopes I'd never loose anything kiwi.
I get sad when I visit and 'forget' things until I see them again.
It's a horrible feeling of betrayal to yourself, something you promise would never happen.
But you're right, the longer time you spend in one country the other one takes the back road.

Charlotte said...

What a sweetheart.

Emily said...

Interesting commentary on the "forgetting" we all experience-- when we desperately promise never ever to forget precious things.

I can't imagine trying to process that at 5 years old. I've seen that look in Willa's eyes of being a million years old.

You are doing amazing as you are willing to see through their eyes and proactively preserve all that you can for them. You have inspired me to think harder about my children and the directions they are headed.

emily said...

Thanks for the post, I've missed your blog updates, but I know how busy life can be. Your girls are beautiful and so lucky to have you as a mother. You allow them to be and live and grow in just the right way.

Brooke said...

Oh, that's both good and bad in a way. I'm sure it breaks your heart to hear things like this come out of her mouth. You must be a really patient mother. I'm not sure how you do it all!