Seeing the World Through Their Eyes
By: Aaron Eske
While digging through old family records in search of details to help me write my book on international adoption, I found a letter my parents wrote to my brother and sister in 1991. This was before my siblings moved from their orphanage in India to our home in Nebraska.
“Dear Ganga and Bhola,” it started. “We bought new beds for you to sleep in when you come home. Your bedrooms are almost ready. We just have to hang a big picture over Bhola’s bed and clean his closet out and straighten out a closet for Ganga’s toys and clothes. But really our rooms are ready for you to move in to now.”
If I’d read that letter five years ago, I would have thought those were perfectly mundane sentences. Now that I’ve circled the world visiting the orphanages where my adopted siblings spent the early parts of their lives, I know that those sentences are insane.
Michelle and Jordan (they adopted American names because let’s be real, Ganga and Bhola just weren’t going to fly during the middle school years)…Ok, where were we? Ah right, my parents’ insanity.
Michelle and Jordan had never slept on a bed in their lives. Nor had they ever slept in their own room. Especially not in a room with a closet full of toys and clothes.
They were accustomed to sleeping beside 10 other children on blankets that lined the chipped teal walls that hadn’t been repainted since World War II. That was their life — not good or bad — just life.
When their nurse at the orphanage read our parents’ letter to them, it must have been like hearing a scene from Alice in Wonderland for the first time. But when Mom and Dad were penning the words, this perpendicular universe was the last thing on their minds. They didn’t know any different.
I spent most of my life not knowing either but I wanted to — which is what compelled me to make the journey and finally understand where my family came from and how we came together.
Along the way I was fortunate to meet with the women who raised my siblings 20 years ago. Despite caring for thousands of children since then, they told me about Michelle’s high laugh and Jordan’s defiant streak as they looked up at the unlit ceiling picturing the past.
The women also introduced me to the new generation of children who for now call the orphanage home. At night, they still sleep in rows on the floor cuddled up with crinkled letters from their future parents that they cannot read, let alone comprehend.
Seeing this, decades started making sense. I understood why Michelle and Jordan abandoned their beds and bedrooms each night that first year to sleep next to each other in the hallway. Why Michelle hugged a white plastic bag that contained every one of her seven possessions when she got off the airplane. Why Jordan mistook a urinal for a toilet at the shopping mall. They didn’t know any different.
It seems like I should have reached this simple revelation without going to the other side of the world. But just as my parents couldn’t understand in 1991 why a big picture hanging above Jordan’s new bed wasn’t important, I had never been able to see the world through their eyes until I saw their old world through mine.
When I got to the end of Mom and Dad’s letter to Michelle and Jordan, there was one line that made sense to everyone. These 22 words were all that mattered: “We think about you every day and wait for word of when you can come home. We love you! Mommy and Daddy.”
Comments are closed.