Fair warning: This column could get sloppy. Normally I try to plug this space with something newsy, something issue-oriented, some kind of meaty food for thought. But signs suggest that today, for a limited time only, I can take a break from controversial current events and simply say something nice for a change.
First sign: It's November, which is National Adoption Awareness Month. Sure, it's also the month designated to raise awareness of diabetes, epilepsy, Alzheimer's disease, bone-marrow donation, family caregivers, novel-writing, and solo albums. My knowledge of those subjects isn't nearly so intimate as my understanding of adoption.
Besides, none of those other subjects dovetails so neatly with the second sign: Thanksgiving. If memory serves, before they invented football and predawn pre-Christmas blowout sales, wasn't this holiday supposed to be about family and food and gratitude? And for me, it's a lot easier to pony up a pound of appreciation for adoption than it is to be thankful for epilepsy or Alzheimer's or even solo albums.
The third sign: Evan had a birthday last week. And because he joined our family through adoption, his birthday makes these signs converge. How can I write about anything other than how thankful I am to have Evan in my life?
Evan has been with us since the moment he was born. His birth mom, Samantha, invited me to spend the day with her in the delivery room. We had gotten to know each other by telephone in the months before Evan's birth. Older than you'd expect, she is six feet tall and full of wisdom. She has two other kids, a full-time job, and a yearning to finish her college degree. And she knew what she was doing; she was adopted herself.
One reason she chose our family from the profiles she was offered was that I'm adopted. She wanted her baby to have that kind of understanding. But mostly we clicked because she's got all the traits I admire: a gruff exterior disguising a big, soft heart, capped by a wicked sense of humor.
Evan is turning out to be just like her.
On his birthday last week, Evan desperately wanted to turn 12 so that he could be a year older than his big brother, Milo. Fortunately, he settled for turning 4 instead. With Evan, though, age is a technicality; he has always, from the beginning, possessed a kind of sixth-sense empathy that gives you the feeling that he has been here a few times before.
The best example came when he was just a week old. We were meeting Samantha for dinner so that she could see how her baby was doing. At the end of the evening, we sat on a bench, and Samantha cradled Evan in her arms. He was midnap, but she kept cooing to him, telling him how much she loved him.
"And you be a good boy and take good care of your new mom and dad," Samantha said.
At that moment, Evan smiled. It wasn't a flicker, or a graceful grimace, and no, I swear it wasn't gas. It was the profound beam of a miniature man saying, hey, Mom, I get your joke and all the meaning behind it.
Sam and I just looked at each other: Did you see that?
Evan has grown into a passionate soul. Of all the kids on our block, he's the most likely to hit or kick or shove. But he's also the most likely to hug or kiss or cry just from sadness or use the word "love."
There's one final reason I had to write this column now: By this time next year, Evan may have outgrown his special perspective.
So far, he hasn't really noticed, or at least doesn't seem to care, that he's black and we're white. It's coming, though, any day now. Already I've heard him use the term "white boy" to describe a kid who rides his bus to school. Is his big brother a white boy, too? "Nah," Evan says. "Milo's a pink."
By the same token, he insists that I am a princess. Halloween is over, but Evan still asks every day what costume I plan to wear. I always say Robin (because Evan is Batman) or the Green Goblin (because sometimes he's Spider-Man). But Evan is emphatic that I deserve a blue chiffon gown and a gold cardboard tiara.
I know that every November, we'll celebrate National Adoption Month, and Thanksgiving, and Evan's birthday, and I'll always be thankful for Evan. But I just had to savor this particular November. Because who knows? By this time next year, Milo might be a white boy and I might no longer be a princess.