Monday, August 9, 2010

The Baby Duck and the Cat -- and Other Moments

Summer Glimpses of Mitike:

1. On a trip to Miss Effie's Flower Farm near my mom's Dewitt, Iowa, home, Mitike falls in love with a sweet little baby duck, which the flower farm owner is keeping as a sort of pet. Miss Effie has carefully extracted the baby duck -- whose name is Waldo -- from its cage and has let TK and I hold it, now she has carefully put the duck back where it will be safe from the farm's cats. My mom and I then happily wander into the flower gardens to begin filling our plastic milk jugs. Suddenly, we hear a panicked "MOMMY! MOMMY! MOMMY!" I drop my milk jug and shears and run -- I've never heard panic like that in my child's voice. When I round the corner of the shed, I behold my child, gripping her curls with her hands, her brown eyes wide and following the chaos at her feet: a sleek black farm cat chasing Waldo (the baby duck) with obviously evil intentions. Somehow, I catch the cat with one hand and the duck with the other, and then return the duck gently to its cage. I feel a small hand in mine. "Oh, Mommy," Mitike says solemnly. "That cat opened the cage! The cat opened the cage and the duck got out." Her eyes well with tears. I nod, understanding she already feels bad enough. "That is an amazing cat," I say. TK sighs, "Yes."

2. Ali and I are talking in the front seat of the parked car, sharing a quiet moment before we get out to unload the groceries. From the car seat in the back: "Mommy? Aye-Ay?" One of us holds up a hand to tell her we'll be with her in just a moment. Our conversation is the intimate, beloved talk of two people who have been away from each other too long. Again, from the car seat in the back: "Mommy and Aye-Ay? Are you talking?" We aren't anymore. My hand's on her arm; she leans toward me to kiss me. From the car seat in the back: "Mommy and Aye-Ay? Are you loving?"

3. ME: TK, I'm so glad you're my child.
TK: Mommy, I'm so glad you're my mommy.
ME: Almost two years ago, I traveled all the way to Ethiopia to bring you home.
TK: I'm hungry. Could I please have a go-gurt?

4. Mitike examines her belly-button. "What is this for?" she asks. I explain about babies that grow in wombs, about cords that connect those babies to their mothers, about how once Mitike was connected to her birthmother -- to Amarech. "But not to you?" Mitike wants to know. I shake my head, and then wait. "Mommy, you never had a baby grow in you." "No," I tell her, "I knew I wanted to be YOUR mommy, and you were in Ethiopia." "Okay, Mommy. Want to see me bounce on this ball?"

5. We're suddenly far from Iowa, after visiting for almost three weeks. We're far from Colorado, after visiting there for two weeks. Now -- today -- TK and I sit on the edge of a glacial river, gazing up at Herbert Glacier. The rest of our family is exploring the edges of the forest here at the end of the Herbert Glacier bike trail. The two of us are eating almonds and resting. "Mommy," TK says suddenly, "Nana and Gerry could be here. And Aunt Katie and Adam. And everyone!" What does she mean? That we could share huckleberry ice cream right here, that we could cuddle close and listen to Nana's reading voice right here, that we could hear Aunt Katie's laugh and watch Uncle Adam walk barefoot through this glacial mud right here, that we could ask Gram to identify the purple flower growing here, that Grandfather could name the bird that just flew over our heads? I feel full and empty, all at once. I glance down at my child. "Mommy, glaciers are blue," she says.