Saturday, January 9, 2010

Ethiopian Christmas

We have thus far failed even to make lame attempts to celebrate the culture of our son’s birth country. In my heart I know that love is not enough, and that I cannot excuse my apathy, citing busyness with meal prep, Band-Aids and kisses. In recognizing the customs of the place where our son was born we are deeply affirming him. And there is no substitute for what is communicated by passing on a few treasures from the place of his beginning. So this year we invited a few Ethiopian adoptive families over to informally celebrate Christmas as it falls on the Ethiopian calendar, on January 7th.
It was awesome. Other mamas made Doro Wat and injera. We contributed some American fare as well as popcorn and coffee. Mister was all grin when Jason handed him his decaf in a sippy cup. The house was loud with children and Ethiopian music.
This holiday was especially timely as earlier that week I had attempted to sit down with Mister and look through his adoption scrapbook. Initally, he eargerly agreed and snuggled into my lap with his blankie and fire dog. As we looked together at the second page of landscape photos from the state where he was born, he suddenly and forcefully laid his flat palm across the images, preventing me from turning the page. “I don’t want to look at ‘dis book. I don’t want to look at ‘dis today.”
“Why?” I asked, mentally preparing for his answer. It was slow and stuttered as it made its way from his heart to his head to his mouth.
“Betuz . . . betuz . . . betuz the insides are gross.” He answered.
It is true that I had included all the photos we had of him. I had made that conscious decision in an attempt to tell a true story and give him as much of his past as I could. So sprinkled among shots of a beautiful country, energetic children and our early days together are the photos taken for his referral, passport and visa. In these photos a tear-stained and frightened boy implores the camera to return him safely to his home. When we first looked at the book together Mister commented on these; “I was so scared. I was so sad.” I wasn’t sure that he was sharing memories, but rather sympathetically relating to snapshots of a former self. But since then he has deepened his bond with us and developed a more sophisticated understanding of time, space and his autonomy. This time he was unwilling to look, anticipating ownership of that sad faced boy. I didn’t press the issue but left the book out. The next day we did look through it, snuggling and hugging and trying to validate and normalize a hard part of our family’s story.
Ethiopian Christmas came at just the right time. He put on a special embroidered shirt, sang and danced with friends, showed off his special book to a favorite preschool teacher and helped in littering the floor with popcorn. And there were cupcakes situated to represent the national flag. And, when you are in preschool, cupcakes always make it better.

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