Monday, October 1, 2012

The Best Kind of Homecoming

It's that time of year again. Football rivalries are all over facebook, I'm getting mailings all the time from my college about upcoming events, Josh's school is planning a spirit week and pep rally and teenagers all over the place are stressing about a date. Homecoming. I still remember all the hype (and unnecessary drama) that surrounded it when I was in high school. I remember the excitement and work everyone put into making a few days a little more special than usual. And when it was over, its memories faded quickly as we rushed on with our classes and sports and extracurriculars.

This past weekend, our son got invited to a Homecoming Party. One of his best friends and, incidentally, one of the sweetest boys I've ever met, was allowed to invite one friend out to dinner to celebrate the anniversary of the day he joined his family, the day he was adopted. We'd never even heard the term before but I immediately fell in love with it. What a wonderful idea and perfect name! Of course, when anything new is introduced to a five-year old, roughly 784 questions immediately follow. What's a homecoming? Why did he invite me? Do we bring him a present? Who did he live with before his family? Does he know his other mom? And on and on. 

Now, because of our own process my son probably has a slightly higher adoption IQ than your average five year old. Because of his inquisitive nature, he has wanted to know the ins and outs of just about every stage. So, I'm used to answering questions that inevitably increase his understanding that the world we live in is a broken place. When your kid asks questions about why a baby wouldn't have parents to take care of it, your heart breaks a little. Or, frankly, a lot. Answering some of these questions in the context of the life of his good friend was emotional for both of us. Adoption has been so abstract for him, this mythical baby in the vague future that will all of a sudden be a part of our lives. But looking at his friend, with whom he plays soccer and legos and superheroes and builds forts and teepees and giggles incessantly, here was a real kid, a real baby 5 years ago that needed a family. Something clicked.

So, the idea of getting to celebrate that day five years ago when his friend was adopted was incredibly special. As we sat around that table, laughing, cleaning up spilled drinks, watching our two skinny kids inhale more food than their bodies could possibly hold, passing around this child's baby pictures and the picture of the first time his parents got to hold him when he was eight months old, I was blown away. Blown away by this family with whom we have gotten to be close friends, grateful for their wisdom and the risks they've taken, overwhelmed by this beautiful kid who has become such a sweet friend to our son, amazed at God's goodness in their lives and ours. Reminded again that God brings sweet beauty out of ashes, redemption out of tragedy. I could see the raw emotion in the eyes of his parents in that photo, this crazy moment where you are handed a child you've never met, not carried in your own body, and told he is yours. Forever. Being able to celebrate this with our friends was an unexpected gift, both to see into their family and rejoice with them and to be reminded, yet again, that our own homecoming is on its way.

As much as I remember those fun football games and dances and fighting with people over the best float idea, homecoming didn't change or affect my life. I barely even have pictures of it. In the grand scheme of things, it was another school event, a fleeting surge of school pride, another something to be involved in for a few passing moments.

But this. This is the best kind of homecoming. This day to celebrate when a forever family was established. This is where the joy and the expectation and the excitement really belongs. This is the real stuff of life, a moment that will stick with me for years to come.

And I can't wait for our own homecoming, can't wait to take those shell-shocked pictures, to be able to see my son's eyes light up when he holds his new sibling for the first time. To celebrate again every year the day our child finally came home.

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