Five summers ago, my husband and I shared a picnic blanket with a couple we’d only recently met. Perched in a parking lot alongside the Navesink River in Red Bank, N.J., we awaited the sun to set and the night sky to fill with an extravaganza of colored lights. “The best around,” they’d promised.
Fireworks weren’t all we were waiting for. That first Fourth of July we spent together was also our last as couples without children. We met during Adoption From The Heart’s education classes and, after talking long after the session ended, we exchanged email addresses in a first act of “oh-my-gosh-they-have-the-same-anxiety-and-excitement-and-questions-and-fears-as-us” friendship.
After the next class and later the video shoot, we moved our chats to a nearby restaurant where we shared stories, fielded questions and got to know each other with a fervor – for hours at a clip. Emails seeking advice or sharing thoughts flooded one another’s in-boxes. We even talked about the inevitable situation when one couple would become parents before the other. Good thing, because just weeks after that shared Independence Day, the first call from our social worker came. The second followed within the month.
Weeks later we were together again, meeting newborn baby daughters, coddling them in colossal proportions and propping them next to each other for parent-paparazzi photo shoots. We opened gifts, compared feeding and sleeping schedules, and talked about home visits from social workers. Plans were made for our next gathering and, much like proud parents of a newly arranged marriage, we imagined their future together.
We’ve since celebrated birthdays, shared their first aquarium visit (the girls eating fish-shaped crackers from their stroller trays was an irony we noted more than once), left presents under each other’s Christmas tree, picnicked at the park, visited the zoo, talked of sharing a vacation someday, had family sleepovers capping hours of boardwalk rides or beach time, and spent cool evenings by a fire with tired kids on our laps, stars twinkling and crickets serenading yet another terrific time together.
Over the years we’ve shared meltdowns, milestones and diaper drama, asked “what do you do?” when a new stage or behavior has us stumped, and shared countless new-parent anecdotes. We’ve delighted in confusing strangers who assumed, thanks to the girls’ similar curls and complexion, they were twins. “Well,” we’d respond with devious smiles, “they’re three weeks apart.” When one of us welcomed another daughter, we all shared in that joy. We chuckle nervously about the tween and teen years to come, noting our “what do you do?” conversations will be so very different then.
Last year a move took one family out of state, changing the regularity of visits. Yet we still welcomed 2010 together, sitting before a fire in a new home, surrounded by the chaos that is three girls in dress-up, singing into microphones, opening holiday gifts and blowing party horns until their little bodies could take no more.
This summer we spent yet another steamy July evening crowded onto a picnic blanket along the Navesink River. Despite geography and another imminent family move, the foursome-turned-sevensome carried on as usual, continuing a tradition that began five years ago: sharing stories and making memories, and deepening a friendship that started when making long-haul friends was the last thing on our minds.
A framed photo of the two girls – the once “arranged friends” – sits by my daughter’s bedside. Despite current preschool friends and new friends to make at kindergarten this fall, nothing can change the comforting story of her first friend. Recently, one of the girls actually reflected on their friendship: “Mom, she’s more than a friend, isn’t she? She’s more like … a sister.” Not bad for a four-year-old!
I’d like to think that when the girls really begin to process their adoptions – each with their own very different story – they can trust the foundation we’ve created for them and, much like their folks have done, lean on the friend they have in one another.
My latest Musings of An Adoptive Mama column, published Summer 2010 – http://www.adoptionsfromtheheart.org