Scary Stories

“Knock, knock.”

“Who’s there?”

“Hal.”

“Hal who?”

“Hal-who-ween.”

Elena loved that one. But she also would have loved it if you’d said “Stanley.”

“Stanley who?”

“Stanley who dressed like a robot on Hal-who-ween.”

Get it?

I didn’t think so. The only thing Elena told worse than a knock knock joke was a scary story. She loved to put on her scary, quivery voice. She’d look at me and Maggie to make sure we were listening and then she’d say, “There was a dark dark house.”

Maggie would roll her eyes and look at me. “Oooooh,” she’d say, “like we’re, so scared.”

I’d glare at Maggie and tell Elena to go ahead with her story.

She’s pause and look around with that same scary story telling look on her face. Then in her scary, quivery voice she’d say, “and in the dark dark house there was a dark, dark staircase. And up the dark, dark staircase there was a light.”

“Elena,” Maggie interrupted, “that doesn’t make sense. If there was a light at the top of the staircase it wouldn’t be dark – would it?”

“Yuh huh,” Elena replied. “It would be dark if the light was off.”

Maggie rolled her eyes again and gave me the look that said she was indulging Elena. I told Elena to wrap it up.

“O.K., o.k. at the top of the dark, dark staircase was a light that was off.” Elena paused to look at Maggie. Daring her to interrupt again. When no interruption came she continued, “and beyond the light that was off was a dark, dark, hallway. And down the dark, dark hallway was a dark dark room.”

“Elena,” Maggie said, “are we getting to the dark, dark point?”

“Grrrrr,” Elena would scream at Maggie, “stop interrupting me.”

“Well get to the point.”

“Dad,” Elena would start.

“You,” I’d say to Maggie, “stop interrupting her. And you,” I’d say to Elena, “get to your dark, dark point.”

“Yeah, Elena,” Maggie would say.

“Yeah, Maggie,” Elena would say, “dad bit you up bad.”

I’d glare at her a bit and she’d continue, “now where was I.”

“About to go into some stupid, dark dark closet?” Maggie guessed.

“No, I was about to look under the dark, dark bed where there was a darker, darker underpart of the bed. And there under the bed was a …. a….” Elena paused searching for what to make up next.

“You don’t even know,” said Maggie.

“Ummm. Oh yeah, there was,” Elena paused to start back into her scary, quivery voice, “there was a ghost.”

Maggie rolled her eyes again. “Oh, brother.”

“And next to the ghost was a … a … a skeleton.”

Elena would go on like this until finally I said, “enough, wrap this up.”

The three of us would then laugh about the way she’d told the story. We’d pretty much retell the story, giggling together. “Daddy,” Elena would ask, “did you like the part where the skeleton’s bone’s fell off?”

I did like that part.

“Knock, Knock.”

“Who’s there?”

“Boo.”

“Boo, hoo?”

“Don’t cry daddy, your favorite ghost will stop by to haunt you every hal-who-ween.”

I sure hope so baby. I sure hope so.

Published in: on October 31, 2006 at 10:28 pm  Comments (5)  

Scary Shaped Salami

People have told us that the holidays will be difficult.

Easter and Passover went by while we were still in shock. We were prepared for the emptiness in the room and at the table. We met it head on. The Jewish high holidays came and went last month. We never celebrate them much in our house. I usually have a conversation with the kids – but I use that time more as personal introspection than religious observance. We’ve been steeling ourselves against the emptiness at the end of the year and we forgot all about Halloween.

Halloween.

We’d prepared ourselves for the night itself. Where Maggie would go out trick-or-treating with Kim without her little sister to blaze the way to the doors on the blocks around us. But we hadn’t considered all of the little things that lead up to Halloween.

Kim has been the room mother for one or both kids for as long as they’ve been in school. One of her yearly obligations was planning the room’s halloween party. She would help organize who brought the snacks and she’d come up with a couple of activities for the kids. I would bake the pumpkin shaped sugar cookies. It counted as both a snack and an activity. Bring in the sugar cookies with frosting and sprinkles and candy shapes and the kids can decorate their cookies during activity time and eat them during snack time. Last year I tripled the batch and made seven dozen cookies.

But the preparation begins well before the week of Halloween. The girls would ask Kim about the decorations. Did she buy the plates and napkins and cups? They would spend weeks choosing what they would be for Halloween. I think my favorite year was when they when Kim dressed them each up as Power Puff girls – or as Elena called them “Powder Puff girls”.

The hardest thing about any holiday is the wait. I didn’t used to be able to buy Christmas presents ahead of time. I couldn’t wait to give them to the person. I’d give them early and then have to get them something else. The girls would assemble their costumes and then be so eager to put them on.

A few years ago I came home from the store with new Halloween cookie cutters. There was a witch, a black cat, a bat, a ghost, and a pumpkin. Elena couldn’t stand it. “Let’s make cookies,” she said.

“It’s too early,” I said. “If I make them today they will be all hard and nasty for your party next week.”

“Oh, come on,” she said, giving me the cutest look she could come up with, “you know you want to.” She looked up at me, batting her eyes and smiling the biggest smile she could manage.

“Of course I want to,” I said, “I’m just not going to.”

“I’ll tell you what,” she bargained, “I’ll help you. I’ll get out the flour and the sugar and, and, what else?”

“That’s nice, but we’re not going to make cookies today,” I said.

Her smile disappeared. She tried to cry but couldn’t manage it. “You never make cookies when I want you to.”

“That’s just silly. We bake stuff all the time,” I pointed out. Logic was not going to help.

“It’s just no fair.”

Elena was pretty practical. She saw quickly that this wasn’t getting her anywhere. She thought a moment and tried a different tack. “You know, these are new shapes. You should probably make just a little bit of cookies to test them.”

I had another idea. “Go get your sister, we’ll use the shapes to make lunch.”

She looked at me curiously and shouted from the kitchen, “Maggie, dad says come in here.”

I looked down at her and said, “I could have done that. Go get her.”

She trotted into the other room and said, “Dad says you have to come into the kitchen. I think you’re in trouble.”

Maggie walked into the kitchen with Elena at her heels. “I didn’t DO anything,” Maggie said.

“I didn’t say you did,” I answered. The girls turned and stuck out their tongues at each other. “What do you want for lunch?” I asked Maggie.

“Salami, I guess,” she said.

“Bring it here. Elena, get two plates.” I said.

“Why do I have to get the plates?” Elena asked.

The girls dragged up chairs on either side of me and I laid two pieces of salami on the cutting board and cut out a bat shape from each. I peeled the outside of the bat off of each piece and gave one to Elena and the other to Maggie.

“Cool,” they both said.

I placed one bat on each one’s plate.

“Can I do one?” Maggie asked. And soon each girl was cutting out shapes from their salami slices.

For the next couple of years, every once in a while we would cut salami shapes for lunch. Hearts for Valentine’s day and scary shapes for Halloween.

Halloween.

The holiday I wasn’t ready for this year.

Published in: on October 23, 2006 at 9:28 am  Leave a Comment  

Some days

Some days I forget she’s dead.

Not forget, really. It just doesn’t occur to me to think about it.

And then I do.

Published in: on October 22, 2006 at 2:08 pm  Comments (2)  

Stones

Elena collected stones. Kim and I have tried to remember how it started or why she did it — she just always liked them.

Even at an early age, as she was moving away from the pair of blankets that served as her attachment object, she kept a rock on the night stand next to her bed. She would bring it downstairs with her and put it on the dining room table while she ate.

Maggie had a large collection of stuffed animals. Mainly cats. Elena had stuffed animals too but she loved her rocks.

When we would go to the beach, Elena would scour the beach for rocks that were perfect to her. The rest of us tried to see her rocks in her eyes. She loved them all. At the end of the week we would make her choose among the dozens she’d picked up.

“You can bring home three,” I’d say.

“But daddy,” she’d protest, “they are all so beautiful.”

“I know,” I’d agree, “but pick your three favorites and we’ll take the rest back to the beach and set them free.”

She would sit and study them for a while. She’d quickly settle on one or two but the third slot was hard to fill.

“Daddy?” she’d ask. I knew I was being manipulated before the words were out of her mouth. “Daddy, do you think it would be o.k. if I kept six?”

“Well, I said three.”

“I know, but how about six?”

“How about four?” I’d offer.

“O.K.,” she’d say in a voice so cheerful that I realized she’d only wanted to move me to four the whole time.

This summer we were back on the beach picking up stones. I suddenly felt like Elena. I wanted to keep them all. I wanted to bring them all back to her and bring them to her grave to show her.

I chose one. It was beautiful. I don’t know why. It just was.

I meant to bring it to the cemetery and leave it for Elena. I’ve misplaced it somewhere in our house. I haven’t looked too hard for it. Maybe it’s meant to stay in the house.

I carry another stone around with me. I saw it at a street fair which we were visiting my sister Jill this summer. I don’t know why I bought it. I keep it in my pocket for now. Maybe I’ll find a place for it in the house. Maybe I’ll bring it to Elena’s grave.

How do you pick a stone for Elena?

That’s how we spent Friday. Friday the thirteenth. Me and Kim and Maggie walking through a cemetery looking at stones.

Maggie has asked to be involved at various points in the process. She picked out the clothes Elena was buried in and now she wants to help pick out her headstone.

We drove to Lakeview Cemetery and walked up to Elena’s grave. The ground has settled. The dirt is no longer mounded and fresh. The grass has grown in on top of her body. Nearly eight months have passed.

She has new neighbors. There are flowers stacked on newly dug graves not far from hers. Some of her other neighbors have new stones. There are stones for little girl who died along with her grandparents. The grandparents share a stone just beyond Elena’s grave. The little girl’s stone sits to the right of theirs. A picture etched into the stone along with a poem.

Someone has decorated their grave with miniature pumpkins. They have also left stones the size of your fist with little notes written in permanent markers. Stones for the deceased.

There’s a stone that looks as if it has been vandalized. It isn’t sitting in the hole that it fits in. It sites askew a foot or two away. We look closer. It is a grave for a couple. The wife died years ago, the husband died in February. They have just returned the stone to the site having carved in the date of his death. They haven’t placed the stone back where it belongs.

At the head of Elena’s grave is a small flat stone with her name written on it. Kim and I looked at each other – it’s time. It’s time to choose a headstone for Elena. A headstone for a six year old.

“I don’t think we should put her picture on it,” Maggie began.

We agreed. We thought it looked fine for others. It just wasn’t something we wanted for Elena.

What would she have wanted? I can’t begin to know. She might have liked an interactive video where visitors could select a song and an outfit and she would appear in that outfit singing the song they chose while performing an interpretive dance.

She might have liked one of her non-sensical knock knock jokes inscribed.

“Knock Knock.”
“Who’s there?”
“Elena”
“Elena who?”
“Elena who was born in 1999 and whose mom was Kim and dad was Daniel and older sister was Maggie. Elena who …”

I finally get the joke. There’s just not enough stone to carve it on.

We’ve looked at the head stones in her section before. This time we were looking like buyers in a used car lot.

“This one’s nice,” I said.

“I like the color of this one,” Maggie said.

She liked the rose colored stones and the grey stones. We settled on the reddish stones. Kim and Maggie agreed on the rounded stones with the writing on one side. We’re still not sure what to write. Her name is rather long: Elena Maxine ChunXue Steinberg.

“I’d kind of like to write something,” Kim said.

“What do you want it to say?” I asked.

“I don’t know. What do you think?” she asked back.

I don’t know either. Maybe just the phrase that runs through my head whenever we visit Elena’s grave:

How could this happen.

Published in: on October 16, 2006 at 7:49 am  Comments (3)  

Counting the seconds

It’s supposed to snow today. Kim can feel the change in the weather in her knees long before the folks on television predict it.

“It’s going to rain tomorrow,” she said on Tuesday flexing her knee.

Sure enough, we woke to an early morning lightning storm followed by a brief period of pelting rain. A burst of hard heavy drops bouncing off of our roof.

And then it was gone.

In the early afternoon I met my friend Craig for a cup of coffee at the local bread store “On the Rise”. I bought a loaf of the Epi bread for Maggie and a cup of coffee. We sat and talked about computer programming and pedagogy. It looked so nice outside. No sign of the early morning rain. We each bought a refill and took it to the table on the sidewalk in front of the store.

It’s October in Ohio. You don’t waste these last nice days indoors.

I put the Epi down on the table and stood holding my cup of coffee. Craig set his cup down for just a moment – but that was enough. Out of nowhere, there was a big gust of wind. I mean big. It blew my loaf of bread off of the table. It tipped his paper cup full of coffee over and then blew it away as well.

A little boy walking by was stunned. His mother explained that the site of the coffee cup being blown away had rattled him. Craig picked up the loaf of bread and I brushed it off. The bag was wet with coffee but the bread was ok. The little boy handed Craig his coffee cup. We sat and talked for another half hour.

I love that the wind just blows. It doesn’t know what will get caught up in the breeze. The coffee cup. The bread. The wind doesn’t notice. The wind doesn’t care if it blows the coffee onto us or away from us. It just blows. And then it stops.

Earlier in the week I had an instant message from Danese that she’d been woken up by a small earthquake.

“Hmmm,” I said, “I’ve been in several small earthquakes and never felt them.”

“That’s actually very common,” she said. “There are earthquakes all the time and you don’t feel most of them.”

She sent me a link to a site that showed the earthquakes in California in the past week. There were something like three hundred of them.

I had no idea.

I only notice the really big ones. I remember my sister Jill talking about an earthquake in California where she saw a man’s life work crumble before her very eyes. She was working in an art gallery that was doing a retrospective on a particular sculptor’s work. The earthquake shook the building enough that his work was damaged. Everything. Gone.

In Ohio we don’t worry about earthquakes. We have them now and then. Probably it is more accurate to say that we have the ones that people notice now and then. For us, it’s more mundane things like tornados and lightning.

Lightning used to trigger bad memories for me. Memories of being afraid that the lightning would strike out house. Now it triggers good memories. Memories of being a dad.

It’s late night and the whole house is asleep. I awake to feel Elena’s breath on the back of my neck. Another breeze blowing in my direction.

“Daddy,” she asks, “are you awake?” She knows I am. A moment ago I was snoring loudly and now I’m not.

“What’s wrong?” I ask.

“Nothing,” she says. And then I hear the lightning.

“Do you want to lay down with us for a while?” I ask.

She nods. She crawls up over me and under the covers on the other side of me. Maggie would be here too but the sound of the fan in her room is enough to drown out the lightning and the steady feel of the wind from the fan keeps her asleep.

Elena wants to talk about anything but the storm. “Daddy,” she says, “do you remember … ” The window lights up with a nearby flash immediately followed by a house shaking boom of thunder. “That was close,” she says burrowing under me.

“Do you know how to tell how close?” I ask.

She shakes her head. When the next lightning appears I show her how to count “One Mississippi, two Mississippi,” and then we hear the boom. “Two seconds,” I tell her, “that means it was roughly two miles away.”

She’s too young to understand the difference between the speed of light and the speed of sound. She’s too young really to know where two miles is. “Two miles away,” I say, “that’s about from here to the library and back.”

“Oh,” she says, not sure whether that should be comforting. We count lightning flashes until it is clear that the storm is moving away from us.

“Daddy,” she says.

“What baby?” I ask.

“Where’s mommy?”

“She must have fallen asleep downstairs on the couch watching t.v.,” I say.

“Can I go down and see her?” Elena asks.

“Why don’t you let her sleep?”

Elena hops out of bed and heads, I think, back to her room. Instead of hearing her bed squeak as she climbs over the safety rail, I hear her little feet on the stairs heading down to see Kim. “That’s my fault,” I mutter to myself. “I didn’t tell her she couldn’t, I asked her a question.”

Soon Kim is awoken by the feeling of Elena’s breath inches from her head.

Published in: on October 12, 2006 at 9:22 am  Comments (2)  

Sorry

A couple of weeks ago I called into the other room to Maggie, “want to play a game?”

She was looking at a website on the family computer and I was aimlessly searching the web on my laptop.

“Sure,” she said. “What do you want to play?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “Anything except Monopoly Junior.”

“What about Sorry?” she asked.

“Sure.”

And so she dug through the games and pulled out sorry. I cleared off a side table and put it between us. She unfolded the board and put it down.

“What color do you want to be?” she asked.

“I don’t care. You choose.”

“Well,” she said, “we’re missing a lot of pieces. The only color we have all the pieces for is green. You can be green and I’ll be a mix.”

“O.K.,” I said.

She handed me the cards to shuffle. It looked as if half of the cards had gone to wherever the missing pieces were. There aren’t a lot of decisions that have to be made in Sorry. You need a special card to move out of your starting position onto the board. You move your way around the board and into your goal area.

At one point Maggie had a real choice to make. She was allowed to switch one of her game pieces with one of mine. One trade would benefit her more but the other trade would hurt me more. She thought a long time about it and then made the switch that benefited her more.

This is the point at which Elena would always shout “no fair, I’m not playing anymore.” Then she’d leave the room. Elena never liked Sorry. She took it personally whenever anyone bumped one of her pieces. Particularly when she was younger, she didn’t have the ability to see the big picture.

Maggie would just shrug it off. If one of her pieces was sent back to the beginning she’d say “oh well.” Maggie knew that just because she was losing now didn’t mean that she would end up losing the whole game. She also didn’t particularly mind losing that much. I love seeing those reflections of myself in her.

I remember playing basketball with my brother as a kid. Despite being older than him – or maybe because of it – I was never as good in sports as he was. I never minded losing to him and I think that that bothered him. That’s not a comment on the man he’s become – more of a memory of the boy he was. He didn’t just want to beat me, he wanted me to feel beaten.

Maggie never feels beaten. Actually, that was some of the joy of Elena. Despite her being a bad sport about Sorry, she really didn’t mind losing. She minded when someone sent her back. It made her a terrible Old Maid player. Whenever she picked the old maid from someone else’s hand she shout with anguish so that everyone knew she had it. Whenever she managed to give it to someone else she would whoop with glee.

Elena never had a poker face.

You could always figure out where in her hand the old maid was by watching her face. As your hand hovered over the old maid her eyes would light up and you knew to pick another card.

I don’t know why, but Maggie always played out Elena’s game. Often she’d win for Elena. Elena would come back to the room and Maggie would tell her “you won, you know.”

This particular night, Maggie fell way behind. I had sent two of her pieces back to the start. She looked unphased. As I reshuffled the cards we chatted about school and a science project they were working on.

Slowly, she worked her way back. I kept drawing cards that sent me in the negative direction while she moved towards her goal. She ended up winning and was pretty happy about it. She doesn’t mind losing, but she does enjoy winning.

I look in her goal at the variety of colors and realize that she’s still moving both her pieces and Elena’s around the board.

“Want to play again?” she asked.

“O.K.,” I said.

“Actually,” she said, “what about Mancala?”

And so we played Mancala.

The three of us used to play Mancala in a round robin. Whoever won would play the person who had just sat out. Elena had gotten quite good at it and had been able to play evenly with us. Unlike Sorry, she loved when someone pulled a sneaky move and was able to capture a lot of stones.

I never let my girls beat me at games but I love when the do. I love watching them outsmart me. Elena would make a series of moves that I would think were capricious and a sign of her getting bored with the game. It would lull me into a false confidence and I would play conservatively. It would turn out that she was two steps ahead of me. She knew I would fall for her tactics and she would turn it against me.

“Dad,” she’d say, “how could you not have seen what I was doing?”

“I don’t know,” I’d answer. “By the time I’d figured it out, I didn’t have any choices.”

She’d rub her hands together, like a villain in a story, and put on a cartoon voice and say, “You fell right into my trap.”

Maggie and I played three quick games. We tried different strategies in each and she still ended up beating me by a stone or two in each of the games. Throughout, we talked about our day and reminisced about playing games with Elena.

“Remember when we used to play Monopoly Junior?” Maggie asked. “She’d never remember to ask for money when people landed on her property and so she’d always lose.”

I remembered. Really, that’s what I love about playing games. The computers are off. The television is off. Just me and Maggie, talking to each other while playing a game. Rehashing the day. Making plans for the future. Remembering the past.

Published in: on October 11, 2006 at 10:24 am  Comments (1)  

The Buffet

We haven’t been to the cemetery in a while. It’s not that we’re avoiding it, it’s more that we don’t think of Elena as being there. Maybe that will change.

Kim’s grandfather used to go to visit his wife’s grave every week to talk to her. Kim and I mainly look at the pictures of Elena or at the many things she left behind and shake our heads.

There are places we find it hard to visit. Silly places. There’s a Chinese Buffet that we haven’t been to since February. A year ago we went there for Kim’s birthday and three weeks later for mine. We’ve been able to stand next to Elena’s grave and yet we don’t seem to be able to go back to this restaurant.

The kids loved the buffet because they had so many choices. They both prefer to eat a little of this and a little of that. Most of all they’d feel so grown up when they got to go up to the buffet and get their own food without us serving them.

When we first started going there the waitresses and the owner would try to talk to Maggie in Chinese. She knows very little and tends to be shy about it. Elena also knew very little but she wasn’t shy about anything. She would pipe up and tell the women what she knew how to say. Her ear was very good and she could match the correct tones. The waitresses would fuss over her.

We’d eat there once or twice a month. It was a convenient place to meet Kim’s parents. After a while we noticed that the waitresses greeted the girls by name and fussed over them just the right amount.

The routine was set. We’d take the girls up for soup and shrimp chips. Maggie could get her own food but Elena was so short she had trouble seeing and reaching some of the items. One of us would get Elena some rice and she would fill her own plate with her favorite items.

Maggie was discriminating. Not Elena. Maggie would choose the items she knew she liked and maybe take a tiny bit of something new that she wanted to try out. She’d put the new item in a soup bowl or a tea cup so that it didn’t touch any of the food that she knew she liked. Elena would take too much of new items, take one bite, and decide she didn’t like it.

“Sorry dad,” she’d shrug at me.

“Next time just take a little if you’re not sure you like it,” I’d say.

“O.K.,” she’d say, “got it.” She’d click her fingers at me like she was a Hollywood starlet dismissing an underling.

“No,” I’d say, convinced that I could still make my point even though she’d moved on. “I mean it. I hate when you waste food.”

“Sorry dad,” she’d say. And for a moment she would look as if she meant it. The waitresses would swoop in and remove her dish and she’d make another trip to the buffet to load a fresh plate with new items.

About the time that Kim would return with a plate full of hot food, Elena would need to go to the bathroom. Kim never got to eat her food when it was hot. She would check with Maggie and ask “Do you need to go?”

Maggie would often say, “no, I’m fine.” This usually meant that she was fine until Kim and Elena returned from the bathroom and Kim was ready to sit and eat. Then Maggie would quietly say, “actually, I sort of need to go.”

The meal always ended with a trip to the ice cream freezer. The girls would pick out what kind of ice cream they wanted and whether they wanted it in a cone or a dish. Maggie would usually scoop both hers and Elena’s and then top it with chocolate sauce and sprinkles.

What’s not to like.

In the two weeks before Elena died, we went to the buffet twice. Once for Valentine’s Day and once for Presidents’ Day. On Valentine’s Day Elena brought Valentine’s cards that she’d made for the waitresses. As soon as she’d heard we were going there for dinner she had asked Kim if she could bring them the cards. At the end of the meal she walked over to the waitress station and handed them out. It was a quintessential Elena moment.

We probably should go back to the restaurant. I don’t know if the waitresses will remember her. But, Elena was Elena there. She’s not really Elena at Lakeview Cemetery. It’s where she is but not where she ever really was.

Published in: on October 2, 2006 at 11:29 am  Comments (3)  

Nine years of being a dad

On September 12th, Kim and I were on a plane to Brussels. Nine years earlier we’d been on our way to China to become parents. This time we had a couple of hours in the Newark airport. We walked around and looked in the shops and wondered if anyone buys a $400 designer purse in an airport. We’d learned to travel pretty light. I carried only my laptop, a book for Kim to read, and a travel guide to Belgium. We would have carried our toothbrushes and some toothpaste but these are currently banned.

That trip nine years ago was our first trip together out of the U.S.. We travelled pretty light then as well. I didn’t have a laptop yet. I carried our papers, a couple of books, and toothbrushes and toothpaste. The government hadn’t seen dental hygiene as a potential threat to security.

We also carried the one picture we had of Maggie. We’d made color copies at Kinkos for our families. We’d made extra copies for ourselves so we could wear the copies out and not worry. We were three days away from being parents and we had no idea what was coming.

That’s the thing.

People can tell you as many stories as they want about what to expect. You think, armed with their stories, that you know. You don’t. I’d heard about being married, being a parent, and losing a loved one. I didn’t understand any of these until I lived them.

Before I was a dad, a baby’s cry sounded very different to me than it does now. Before I was a dad, I didn’t think the change would have been as profound as it was.

We changed planes in Tokyo and landed in Hong Kong twenty hours after we had left Cleveland. We got to the hotel tired but not yet ready to sleep. Some of the other people in our group had arrived on the same plane. This became clear as we were all checking in. It was already dark in Hong Kong but not yet that late. Kim announced that we were heading down to the bar if anyone wanted to join us.

It was a small hotel bar with just a couple of locals entertaining each other with karaoke. Laurie and Colleen joined us along with their sister’s Mary and Ellen. Three days later we would be sitting together in another bar a thousand miles away at another hotel with three strollers and our new babies.

Nine years ago, September 15th Maggie Rose was placed in my arms for the first time. I love that I held both of my girls first. We were told very little about Maggie other than she loved to eat everything. It’s hard to believe now that her diet consists of salami, hot dogs, rice, and junk food – but when we got her she loved vegetables and almost everything we offered to her.

She was the youngest of the nine girls and the second largest. When we were at the medical facility a week later they needed a special scale to weigh her. I look at her now – so tall and thin and long limbed and can barely remember that rolly little thing I held in my arms.

It was a transcendent bit of magic. She was placed in my arms and I was turned into a father. I have never been the same. People used to tell us how lucky Maggie was that we adopted her. Kim would say that we were pretty lucky too.

I remember most of all not being able to take my eyes off of her. It’s nine years later and I haven’t stopped looking.

Yesterday I read a homework assignment that Maggie had written and brought home from school. I couldn’t believe her voice. She’s just ten and yet her writing captured me and moved me along. I now know the danger in saying it, but I can’t wait to see the person she is yet to become.

Last Friday was my birthday. Not a day I celebrate much. Particularly this year. But it is also the ninth anniversary of the day we brought Maggie into ourĀ  home. What a wonderful month of memories.

It’s been nine years of being a dad.

Published in: on October 1, 2006 at 9:58 am  Comments (4)