Four years ago you officially entered my life with a bang. On September 30, 2011, a judge struck a gavel against a block of wood, and that crisp sound meant that you were officially part of my family; you were finally adopted after years in foster care. As incredible as the moment of adoption was, it was not as significant as the hundreds of much more ordinary, everyday experiences we have had together before and since that moment. These experiences—from the endless bike ride in Washington, D.C. to apple picking near the Kettle Moraine—have defined you as a member of my family and my sister. On this fourth anniversary of your adoption day, I want you to know how fortunate I feel to have you as my sister.
You are an incredibly talented person. Your perseverance amazes me, your athletic ability impresses me, and your love and dedication to your family never ceases to astound me. You are very different from the average thirteen-year-old girl and I mean that in the best possible way. You catch the humor in everything, whether or not it was intended. You are undoubtedly the most observant person I know, while also being one of the most sensitive. Your optimistic and charismatic personality—still intact and not dimmed even after years of turmoil from different houses, foster families, and court cases in your first nine years of life—make you an inspiration. I know I do not always acknowledge your resilience, and it is commonplace that we start our day bickering about who gets to use the shower first, but that does not change how I feel. Our brother-sister competition is often frustrating and irritating, but it is part of being siblings, and deep down I know that as we overcome our differences, we will be closer as we get older. You are so deeply my sister—I feel it in everything we do, yet sometimes I notice the world has trouble recognizing that we are related. I know you notice it as well.
We never talked to about the family trip in California-- what happened when we took the ride on the cable car. Mom paid for the cable car tickets, and we all found a space to stand as the car started to move. About two minutes later the ticket collector came back and said to Mom, “Excuse me, but which children are yours?” It was an understandable question, the operator couldn’t be expected to assume that a Puerto Rican girl, an African American girl, and a white boy were all siblings. Although I understood the ticket collector’s confusion, it still saddened me. The reality of the matter is that there is an image of what families are, and adoptive families don’t always fit that image.
Adoption is a beautiful thing, and there is no reason why it should be so unusual. I am blessed to have you, Jacob, and Jamie in my life, and I would not have it any other way. I play, fight, eat, and pray with all of you and I treasure my unique relationship with each one of you. From my experience, adoption is the optimal gift, as both parties are on the receiving end. I was lucky enough to receive a sister, Mom and Dad were blessed with a daughter, and you got a loving family. This ultimate exchange is nothing short of miraculous, and it is something that can always be looked to as an example of the grace of God.
In adopting you, Mom and Dad were putting complete and absolute trust in God. They couldn’t go on Consumer Reports and research until they found a daughter that fit their desired criteria, they had to believe that God would help them find a child that needed them, and just as importantly a child who would be able to prosper under their love, direction, and support. Prospering wasn’t easy, you had to learn the ABCs once as a todder, and learn them again when you came back after your years away, as a kindergartener. Moving back and forth has left its impact, but I have watched with joy as you have been able to climb your mountain of challenges, swim through your river of painful memories, and cross your desert of doubt. Your journey from one household and way of life to another hasn’t been easy or fast, and it is certainly not over, but though heaps of hard work, you have made an incredible amount of progress. You have prospered. You are amazing, and anyone who knows you well understands this. The years since your adoption have flown by and I have trouble accepting that you are already in eighth grade—last night during dinner I barely stopped myself from making a remark asking why you were talking about high school. Yes, I had to tell myself, she will be in high school next year. She’s not a little kid anymore. Your adoption is something incredible. It is an action that mirrors God’s love for humanity and I count myself blessed to have you in my life.