We went to Sam’s the other day to shop and get our tires rotated. Of course if you take Judah to Sam’s you must buy him a hotdog. It’s the deal. (I blame his daddy entirely for this.)
So there we were in the Sam’s cafe area, Judah’s eyes trained on the football on the television above us while he stuffed hotdog into his mouth. I was cutting up little pieces and giving them to Evangeline, grabbing a bite for myself every so often. An utterly forgettable, mundane moment in the giant superstore.
Behind us an elderly, African American woman was also eating her hotdog and it took me a few minutes to realize her eyes were fixed on us. She was watching us – to be precise, my children – quite keenly and with seeming enjoyment. When the moment presented itself she asked if they were my foster children. I said, “No, Ma’am, these are my babies.” “Your babies? You adopted them? You and your husband?” “Yes, Ma’am.” “They’re yours to keep?” “Yes, Ma’am. They’re mine to keep.” Her smile got wider as I answered her questions.
She came close to Evangeline, got level with her eyes, felt her hair and started talking to her. Told her she would grow up to be good and safe and told her she wouldn’t grow up to be a heart breaker. Told her she was beautiful. She brought her face close to mine and told me to keep on doing what I was doing and that they would be good kids. “It’s what happens in the home,” she said. I looked in her eyes and wondered what burdens she carried and what stories she held in her heart.
“God bless you,” she said. “God bless you as you raise them.” She walked over to Judah and took his hand. His eyes were still trained on the television, completely unaware of this entire conversation. “You look at me when I talk to you,” she said. He did. “God bless you,” she said.
And with that she headed toward the exit. I sat there, my fingers full of hotdog, my baby getting impatient of the shopping cart and my toddler drinking as much of the soda as he could without me noticing, and the force of all she had said washed over me.
She felt ownership of my babies. That’s what it was, plain and simple. There was no resentment that they belong to me but there was ownership there – she felt invested in them, in how I raise them, in what they will, one day, grow up to be.
This is a new feeling for me. I don’t really know how to think about it. I know that I don’t resent it. Somehow she made me feel a part of something bigger, something I can’t quite put my finger on. But I also felt somewhat perplexed – not sure where to put this new thought and new feeling.
And then during our five minute family devotions the next morning Josh asked Judah the first catechism question we’re working on with him.
“What is your only comfort in life and in death?”
No clue what they mean, but happy to recite the answer and with a big grin, the words pour out of his toddler mouth: “That I am not my own, but belong, body and soul, in life and death, to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sin…”
Yes. That’s the narrative, from beginning to end, always and forever. I have a sense everything else will somehow fall into place. And I think that dear old lady would agree.
What a beautiful story! I hope you’ll tell it to your children often! As Christians, the words “mine to keep” take on a deeper meaning because our children are simply ours to keep for Him!
EXACTLY how I feel with respect to the Deaf community.
“She felt ownership of my babies. That’s what it was, plain and simple. There was no resentment that they belong to me but there was ownership there – she felt invested in them, in how I raise them, in what they will, one day, grow up to be.” EXACTLY.
“That I am not my own..” EXACTLY
Quite, quite wonderful.
I’m reading this with tears pouring down my cheeks as I look at the picture of your beautiful children and continue to be encouraged and challenged by your journey and your words that have brought this journey to life and allowed others, like myself , to share in it! God Bless you all! Lots of love across the miles xxxxx
Sweet story. Here’s my grandson Jonah, who has been battling leukemia this past year, reciting the Heidelberg Catechism. Means so much more when you see a child, who faces death directly daily, boldly reciting these glorious, comforting words by heart.
Thank you, Mr. Atwood! I was just reading Hannah’s blog yesterday and was so moved by her faith and testimony. God bless you all!
Wow. I liked this story.
As the white dad of three decidedly non-white kids, I love this story (and find myself a bit envious). I sometimes feel a sense of….not quite judgment, not really guilt, but a heightened awareness when black people encounter our family in public. I think it would be a very special feeling to have that acceptance and positive impact from a member of the community.
Thanks for your comment. So far we have had generally positive responses from our various communities which I am so grateful for. We certainly get a lot of stares, some of them unfriendly. I feel for you all – not easy! Thanks for finding my blog.
Wow, Bry. This made me cry. What a moment!
Such a beautiful story Bryonie, and such a timely reminder for me. Thank you!
What a fantastic story! Made me cry. I’m thankful for the encouraging story in the midst of the hard stories of people’s reactions towards adoptive families.
Bry, I have had this happen with my own biological children. Almost always from an elderly black person. I believe that these women put most of us to shame when it comes to the encouragement of mothers in the thick of it. How often do I see a mom in the grocery store either cheerful or struggling and take the time to encourage or bless them? It is rare indeed. So, while it may have been an instance of your situation it is in my experience an instance of women who feel a calling to encourage and bless others no matter what the color of their skin. Still your point is a lovely reminder that these little ones are not our own. Thanks for writing friend.
Loved this story. Thank you.
Your writing is beautiful, as is your family.
there is something quite precious about being accepted into the african american community by virtue of raising an black son–something that is more “foreign” in the caucasian community! we experienced this early on, less so now–i kind of miss it! to have this window into a different culture is such a gift!