Pictures and Memories


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So dinner time in the Hughes house usually goes one of two ways.

1) We all sit down together at “the big table” (ie the dining room table) and eat together and we all share our “bests” of the day (“played with friends” “had fun with mommy”…or if you’re Charlie, a completely made up story about something that didn’t actually happen). Then Josh reads a chapter out of the Jesus Storybook Bible (this is starting to get fun now that the kids pay attention and ask questions). Then we pray and sing a few songs. Aw, so picturesque right?

(I was recently talking to a friend at church about how I haven’t been going over Bible verses with my kids. At all. And she thanked me for telling her that because she pictures us all sitting around singing hymns while Josh plays the guitar every night. April, this second way that dinner time goes is for you, to dispel that image.)

2) Josh and I are like, no, we cannot sit at a table with these children. They are nuts. And we make them sit at the kitchen table and we sit in the dining room by ourselves. They’re only about 5 feet away but somehow it helps.

Tonight was just such a night, and we had about 10 minutes to talk before the kids were like, hey, you can’t banish us, and they were climbing all over us. Josh was sitting with his feet propped up on the table and Reagan climbed into his lap. And I looked at her, spanning from his chest to his ankles, and immediately thought of a picture of him holding her when she was about 2 months old and did that thing parents do where I COULD NOT BELIEVE HOW HUGE SHE IS. So I ran upstairs and found the picture and brought it down and we were all oohing and aahing over how cute Reagan was as a baby.

And Eva walked up and looked at the picture and smiled. “Awwww,” she said. Which always makes me laugh because “awwww” is a learned expression for her. She sees all of us doing it and mimics it, so it feels a little off coming from her. Like she’s not sure why she’s saying it but knows it’s the right thing to say.

But then her next words, oh how they cut straight to my heart. “Where is one of me, mommy?”

And just like that my laughter and smiling turns to tears welling up in my eyes. Her daddy pulls her in tight and says, “We don’t have any of you as a baby, sweetie, but we have a lot of pictures from when mommy and daddy came to get you in Uganda. Would you like to see those?” She insists that she wants to see one of her as a baby, but as he flips through all the pictures on his phone she is distracted and begins to delight in seeing herself caught on camera.

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I am not an overly sentimental mom, but oh how this breaks my heart. It brings to mind so many things, those things I often just choose not to think on. Because as I think of them as babies, I cannot help but think of their other mother. My children will always have two mothers. Titus will not, in all likelihood, remember. But Eva, dear Eva, I think there are some memories there. There have been hints of it. There is some confusion, there, about mothers. Abandoned by hers so early, acting as one herself to her younger brother. It has been, and continues to be, a slow process, her allowing me to be the mother.

There is so much I don’t know. I think of my memories of Reagan and Charlie, all of those detailed memories that began the days they were born. I have none of those for Eva and Titus. Someone else does.

On the day of our court hearing in Uganda, I sat in the car with the children’s mother for about 30 minutes while we were waiting (there was a lot of waiting in cars). It was just her, the kids, and me. We sat in uncomfortable silence for a while but eventually we began to attempt conversation. She knew very little English and I know like 4 Lugandan words, so this was difficult, but I managed to ask her, mostly through use of my hands, how Titus got a scar on his nose. She conveyed, through broken English and hand motions, that he had fallen and hit his nose on a rock when he was a little younger. That moment was the moment for me. This woman, no matter what she’s done or where she is now, she is their mother. All of those baby memories I have of my Reagan and Charlie, she has for Eva and Titus.

But herein lies the beauty of adoption. Because it doesn’t matter. Oh, of course those memories matter. They matter deeply to me, deeply to this woman who bore them. But it doesn’t matter that I don’t have those memories. I am still a mother to them. They have a new identity and it is a beautiful identity. An identity that has given them mother and father and sisters and grandparents and aunts and uncles. It is theirs fully.

So we make new memories, and take lots of pictures, but we don’t shy away from the heartbreak because it is part of their story. Tonight I am so grateful that even though I’ll never know what those early years were like for my children, God does know. Oh, He knows so well. And He already knew that I would be their mother, long before I did. And in that I take comfort and find peace.

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