4 months ago, we brought V and J home to live with us full-time, just ten days after meeting them for the very first time. It was Tuesday March 3rd 2015, at 2:30 pm. Their case worker was meeting us at their grandmother's house to introduce us, and I don't think I had ever been more nervous for anything in my life. We first stopped to pick out some flowers for their grandma. It was our first time meeting her too. It seemed like far too little to bring someone who had been raising our kids for the past year and a half, but we knew this was not easy for her and thought it couldn't hurt to offer a small gesture.
We drove the 40 minutes to her house without saying much. We exited off the highway and I will never forget the faded billboard on the side of a tire shop that said, "Enjoy the road ahead." We found their house and realized we didn't see your case worker's car out front. We wanted her to introduce us officially and help break the ice, so we drove around the neighborhood until we saw her car.
When she finally pulled up, we followed her to the screen door and their grandma answered it with tears in her eyes already, falling into a hug with the case worker who assured her it would be OK. She reminded her this was a good thing, and we were good people. She nodded her head that she knew and we handed her the flowers and introduced ourselves. She took them with shaking hands and introduced us to the girls. V and J and their two older sisters were all on the living room floor. I just vividly remembering looking at them thinking, "There you are!"
V was wearing black high tops and tiny pink glasses. She gave us a nervous but friendly "Hi!" and showed us her doll. Shortly afterward she was singing her ABC's and a few songs she had learned from daycare while checking back in with her grandma for hugs. She was playing Barbies with her sisters and started driving the Barbies to the store and bringing us back candy.
J hesitantly joined in when she saw V having fun with us. She was wearing a shirt that said "Daddy Makes Me Smile" which one of her older siblings had decorated with permanent marker. Their grandma told us how healthy and smart they both were, and started tearing up about how she hadn't spent one full day apart from the girls since she'd had them. After a while their brothers came home from school and sat right down to do their homework after politely shaking our hands, and bringing J a sippy cup of milk.
The oldest had to leave for football practice but came back in the door in tears, thinking we'd be taking them away forever that night. Grandma reassured him that it would be a few days, and that we would visit and call and stay in touch. My heart was breaking for him and that moment was all of the hard parts of adoption right when I was meeting my girls for the first time and being excited as a new mom. There's just no way to describe the intersection of emotions.
They both continued to warm up more and more, and when grandma suggested V bring us a book to read, she went over to the shelf and handed me "Are you My Mother?" I am not a huge believer in signs, but it was all I could do to hold it together as everything in this little girl was asking me the same question with her smiling eyes and nervous dimple.
While I read the book over and over again, Mr. Ladd set up our next visit and exchanged numbers with grandma. V sang us a few more songs, and Grandma joked about how V danced like a white girl. Mr. Ladd played catch with a football for a while with J and one of their older brothers. When we left, J climbed up my legs for a hug, and V gently patted our arms as she hugged us goodbye. We promised we'd come visit them the next day and as we drove away, the tears I had been holding back flowed hard. I couldn't believe how beautiful they were, all of them. I couldn't believe how welcoming their grandmother had been in one of the hardest times of her life. I didn't understand how we could be so lucky, so blessed.
We were starving because we had been too nervous to eat anything beforehand, and we were too fired up to go home yet, so we ate at the same restaurant we we had after each of our adoption training classes months before and cried between ordering food and beer. It was a gorgeous night, and I don't think we'd ever felt more grateful or unable to believe this was actually our life, and that we had just met our daughters.