Yesterday morning, the buzzing of Greg’s phone woke me. I’d been up late the night before answering messages from people who saw April’s sad New York posts. Days before, she’d decided to stay there; her birth father and stepmother had okayed it, as had her dad and I. And, suddenly, she wasn’t so sure.
Previously, I’d told her I wasn’t going to change the plane ticket until after I spoke to her birth dad. She knew we’d talked, so she assumed I’d changed it.
Every mother knows: I hadn’t.
Every mother knows: I was waiting.
A week is a long time to consider something. To think about the phrase I’m sure. To sit and consider really saying good-bye to your own bed, your hometown friends, your devoted cat, now a melancholy Penelope, who has spent a month in your bedroom window, awaiting your return.
To say, I abandon that: I pick this place.
In the decade we spent foster parenting, Greg and I learned that after you tell a child he can stay, that a temporary placement is becoming more permanent, there is a quick mood shift, affecting everyone. Everybody either winds tighter or takes off their belts entirely. True selves are shown, expectations made clearer. Ninety-three kids made it clear to us that when a placement changes, everyone feels it.
We felt it here: I turned April’s stall shower, which would now be unused, into storage immediately. I called the funeral home about mailing Stephanie Grace’s ashes to New York. April felt it there: she made doctor’s appointments and began making efforts to find a job. Her birth family started clearing out storage space for her things.
Her brother and his wife are expecting a second baby next week; perhaps the house began feeling very small. Perhaps everyone started feeling shaky about that solid sure.
Greg and I were rattled here. We prayed in the middle of the day and again at night. Wearily, we prayed. Every prayer included words like we don’t know and we want what’s best and been through so much.
The girl has been through so much.
When the phone buzzed yesterday morning, her first words to me were, “Have you changed the ticket?”
And she was relieved to hear my no, to hear that if she chose, we’d be in Brunswick at the airport Tuesday to hug her neck, grab her things, and bring her home.
I talked to her birth father. To her stepmom. To her brother. No one was mad. No one was angry. Everyone had just felt the strong shift that comes after the word stay.
Now, our girl has chosen the word return. The word home. To come back and work through things, to regain her footing and find her future.
None of us will even pretend to know how things will work out–she may get a roommate and move out quickly; she may stay home and work and save to return to her boyfriend in New York.
Her choices may be wise, foolish, or a mixture of both. She may break our hearts; we may break hers. The opportunities to fail one another are, as ever, boundless.
But there is a chance to come alongside again.
We have seen apart.
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