Story time is sacrosanct in our house. No matter how crazy, crappy or convoluted the day has been, we will gather, as a family, in the boys’ bedroom and read.
There are books that are in regular rotation – 10 Apples Up on Top (Gabe), This is the Way to the Moon (Nick), and Mary Had a Little Lamb (Olivia). But the ones that the kids request the most are the stories of how our family came to be.
“Mommy and Nana were in a meeting,” starts Nick’s story. And he listens with rapt attention as we describe the daisy chain calls to our work, then cell phones, to ask if we wanted to pick up baby boy…right now.
How we were so excited to meet this baby that we forgot our car seat when we drove to the doctor’s house.
How we bounded up the stairs of his Victorian and he met us at the door.
How the moment our social worker placed this tiny baby in our arms we knew he was our Nicholas.
How we realized we didn’t have any baby items at home so we drove to Target and walked the aisles while Auntie Caroline told us over the phone what we needed to buy.
How when we got home we stared at him as he slept, whispering over and over, “thank you for finding us.”
“And what about Gabe,” Nick prompts. “He came from Obama’s house.” We smile, as we always do, because no matter how many times we have explained that “the white house” that Gabe came from is different from the one where Obama lives, Nick still thinks his brother has a presidential connection.
“Mommy and Nana were working on the computer,” starts Gabe’s story, “and we got an email.” There was a baby boy, about a month old, in the nursery of “the white house.” His birthmom had picked our family – had picked Nick specifically to be this baby’s big brother.
How we went to visit the baby – just Mommy and Nana – while Nick was in school.
How alert he was, with his toothless baby smile, and he snuggled into our arms, as if he was always meant to be there.
How we went as a family to bring him home and Nick told everybody in the elevator that he was going to get his baby brother.
How we sat on the big couch and big brother did such a good job holding his brother’s head up as he fed him a bottle.
How we showed Gabe the giant “READY” sign we had painted, now hanging in our kitchen, to let him and the Universe know that we were here and waiting.
How Gabe smiled at Nick as he drifted to sleep and Nick’s smile filled his face, then the room, then our hearts.
“And Olivia?” Nick says of his sister who has fallen asleep in Lori’s arms. He is stretched on the floor next to his brother, who is fighting to stay awake.
“Nana was ‘making a movie’” – we describe our work in ways that they can understand – “and I got a message on my phone that Olivia was being born.”
How Olivia had to stay in the hospital because she was so excited to meet us that she came a little early.
How Nick picked the clothes for the new baby and we cautioned him that maybe we would just have the baby for a little while since we had to wait for her birthmom to tell a judge she wanted us to take care of Olivia forever, and remember how the other babies’ mommies had changed their minds…
How Nick studied the yellow duckling onesie he held in his hands then said quietly but firmly, “No. I want to keep this one.”
How Nick and Gabe waited with our village of friends and family while we visited Olivia, taking pictures to show them when we came home.
How Nick started his first day of kindergarten; Gabe went to daycare. Both came home, went to bed, and awoke a few hours late to meet their little sister.
How we sat together in Olivia’s room, marveling at our expanded family.
The children are asleep now, and as we tuck each one in, we know we will share these words again.
These are the stories we tell our children, for them to tell themselves.