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We’ve been back from our trip to the Congo for six days. We’ve resumed the routines of work and school and extracurricular activities just as easily as one might step onto an already moving treadmill, in other words, a bit clumsily but fully committed. I imagine our son Ezra is back to his old routines in his Congolese orphanage, whatever that might mean. I wonder if he woke up that first morning back in the orphanage and told his friends, “You will never guess the dream I had! I was staying in a hotel with these white people. They had no idea what I was saying and I didn’t understand them. The lady cheered when I ate fruit and the man kicked a soccer ball with me for hours. So crazy…”

 

The jet lag has worn off but the feelings of frustration and sorrow linger. Little things remind me of our time with our son: blue cleaning solution in the toilet (they added more of this chemical every day when they cleaned the bathroom in our hotel room), the smell of diesel exhaust coming from the truck in front of me, a lacing card and string lying on the floor of our bedroom (I thought we sent all of these with him to the orphanage but apparently we had a stowaway in our luggage).

 

The memories conjured up by these reminders are bittersweet. Like most memories—even good ones—our hearts are torn asunder by the force of reality: this is just a memory, a mirage, not the real thing. I see the blue potty water and I think: “What a privilege is was to be the Momma to Ezra for mundane yet important tasks like potty patrol.” Then I think, “Who’s taking him potty now? Is anyone keeping up with his number twos?”

 

I’ve dreamed about Ezra a couple of nights this week. Maybe my subconscious has figured out I don’t want to think about him too much when I’m awake so I won’t be a slobbery mess at the grocery store or the school pickup line, so it has worked him into my dreams—a hollow and haunting substitution for the real thing. (Stupid subconscious, mind your own business.) One morning, I woke up with Ezra’s face clearly in my mind. He was saying the same word over and over: sambo. This is Lingala for seven. I tried all day to figure out what the dream meant. Will we get to bring him back in seven weeks? Seven months? When he’s seven years old? (Please, Lord, no. I don’t know if I can wait that long.) There’s no reason to think it means anything but that’s what you do when you’re desperate.

 

In a moment of irrationality, I actually googled the phrase: when will Ezra come home. I got a lot of links to the TV show Pretty Little Liars which I’ve never seen and I’m pretty sure won’t shed any light on the trials of international adoption but I’m thinking has a character named Ezra on it and he’s been on a trip.

 

But we soldier on the best we can. We hope and pray for good to come of the senseless separation of children and their families but it’s not easy. We‘re happy to be home but a part of our hearts missed the flight out of Congo. A sliver of our hopes and dreams stayed in Kinshasa, invisible and lightly resting on the shoulder of a little boy who needs a place to call home, too.

 

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