We reached in the dead of the night, picking up room keys from a sleepy employee who went through the motions of showing of where our room was and mentioning breakfast would be served from 6:30 AM to 9:30 AM. Setting an alarm for 6:00, we fell into a sleep that was deep and devoid of dreams. Waking before the alarm went off, it took me a while to realize where I was. The kids still asleep, I took advantage of the quiet to wash up and let my thoughts and emotions percolate.
Ammu and Pattu made me a mother overnight. It took me months to love without reserve. A part of my brain acknowledged that their mother was out there grieving for her loss. I blogged, sent pictures and updates but I knew nothing could make up for what she had lost. Loss and grief tinged what happiness I felt at mothering. Navigating the early days of parenting and adoption, I devoured books, articles and personal blogs. Each person sharing their story shaped my views. Some reinforcing what I already felt, some causing me to question my beliefs and some causing me to cringe.
As the years passed, I knew we would journey back to the land of the twins birth. To re-accquaint ourselves with the pieces of their history that will become part of their present and future. So, here we were less than an hour away from their birth city and I was a bundle of nerves. We would meet with their family, drive through the town that had been home to their first few months. We would visit places that held a tenuous link to their past. One in which they were another mother’s children. Fear, Insecurity, Sadness, Happiness, Courage. Emotions jostled in my heart clamoring for space. To be heard and felt.
An hour later, we set off in a car packed with luggage and kids all in a row in the backseat. Kicking, squabbling and annoying their little sister, they journeyed. I envied their ability to treat this as just another outing. With each mile that passed, I clicked pictures. Saathi and I relived two other such drives. The landmarks were familiar. The mountains as barren as ever.
Pulling into the driveway, we spotted Ammu’s and Pattu’s mom right away. Stepping down from the car, I made for her as she made for her children. Hugs initiated what was destined to be an emotional couple of days. We ate together, shopped, played in the park, wandered around the mall, read stories to the children, tickled each other till we collapsed in a heap of giggles. We also sat in the quiet and dark, exchanging views on politics, on parenting, on raising children, on religion. I filed away each nugget in my head knowing it would shape how I raised Ammu and Pattu.
As I reached out to pick Laddu off the carpet, I raised my head to see the twins having their hair braided by their mom. Three heads all together, all identical. It hit me with force that this is what it was all about. Identity. Family. Belonging.
We left each other with few words. Each of us holding back tears. More words left unsaid than expressed. With a heavy heart and mental promises to return. As we boarded the plane and the earth fell below us, I knew we had been marked and changed by the encounter. We each will carry back different memories with us. Some sweet. Some sad. All worth preserving.