For years, I wondered what memories my daughter Cristina had of the day I brought her home to America.
The longest day of my life was December 21, 1988. I was in Tegucigalpa, Honduras and after several days, I finally had clearance to bring our three-year-old daughter home to the United States. My wife had stayed behind with our first child, adopted only a year before in El Salvador. It was hard being separated for this big event, but it had to be.
The night before our departure, neither Cristina nor I got any sleep. She refused to stay in a crib, insisting instead on cuddling with her new dad. The morning was complicated by her lingering diarrhea, and we had a full day and night of flying ahead of us, including a customs stop in Houston. I looked forward to the trip with excitement and dread. I always wondered what that day was like for Cristina. I found out when she wrote this poem at age 15.
Never Shall I Forget
Never shall I forget the day that changed my life forever, the day that made me so excited and so scared at the same time.
Never shall I forget my father, the new man in my life, whom I would look up to.
Never shall I forget when my father took me to the airport where it all started. I wouldn't get up the stairs, but I wouldn't walk away.
Never shall I forget the way I felt that very moment. My whole life was going to change in a second if I was to get on that plane. I didn't know if my life was going to change in a good way or in a bad way. I had to trust the man who was leading me there, that it was going to be fine, that I wouldn't have to worry. He grabbed me up into his arms and we were off.
Never shall I forget how nervous I was during the flight. I had the jitters all the way. I would not leave my father's lap. He held me all the way there. It was nearly Christmas and as we entered California, all I could see were the most beautiful colorful lights, "!Las Luces!"
Never shall I forget, as I entered, that I saw the most beautiful ladies I had ever seen. We were walking towards them. I was being held in my father's arms, whom I had trusted with my life.
Never shall I forget when I heard that these two people were part of my new family.
Never shall I forget the smile on my new mother's face. How happy she was to finally see me again. And it was the same for me too. I walked into her arms and she placed her arms around me. Just the feeling of her arms around me, I knew that she was going to take good care of me.
Never shall I forget the way my new sister looked at me. With her big brown eyes, such a gentle look, coming towards me. I was scared at first.
Never shall I forget the way she picked me up. I was not happy. I pushed her away. I guess it was because I was scared, that I had never seen this person, that already she might do something bad to me.
Never shall I forget that day and night that changed my life forever, the night that led me to the perfect family
Never shall I forget their faces which lit up my heart with joy, the faces I could not take my eyes off.
Never shall I forget the beauty of their smiles which made me want to smile
Never shall I forget the smell of happiness, the smell that would be with me forever
Never shall I forget the arms that held me so tight, the first time that I had ever felt so safe in my whole life
Never shall I forget the touch of their cheeks, the first time that I had placed my lips upon theirs
Never shall I forget their voices, the sound of music
Never shall I forget the beating of my heart, which wouldn't stop, when I fixed my eyes upon my beautiful future family.
(Written in June 2000)
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Alfred J. Garrotto lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife and two adopted daughters, now in their late teens. His novel, Finding Isabella (Genesis Press, 2000) is the story of an adoptee who returns to her native country in search of her birth mother.
Copyright (c) 2001 by Alfred J. Garrotto, Cristina Garrotto
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For permission to reprint this article, contact Mr. Garrotto at alg.blsinc.com.