Thank You Mr. BalloonMan

I have always wanted to adopt a child. Sure my reasons at various times in my life have been different but the goal never changed. I wanted to adopt.

When I was eight I learned my best friend and her little brother were both adopted. They were rich kids; beautiful blondes and the very embodiment of what I considered to be cool. Surely if I adopted my kids would be much like my friends and automatically be considered cool. My children would never be an awkward, grubby, stringy-haired loser on the playground like I was simply because they were adopted. (Oh to be eight and delusional once again.)

When I was twelve I wanted to adopt for more selfish reasons. The thought of having sex with a man and then gestating a child and giving birth to it filled me with heebie jeebies. There were enough children in the world that surely I could forsake the ick factor of procreating, bypass it entirely and still end up a mother.

When I was 28 and finally had this mothering gig down firm, juggling raising two young children with raising my disabled toddler, I finally grew into my skin as a mother and realized that while my broken body may not be able to create life once again, I could surely mother once more if I wandered down the adoption road. My heart was filled with maternal love and our family felt lop sided. Two healthy children born back to back and then another child separated by years and disability. I wanted Bug to have a sibling with whom he could relate.

When I was 31, I was broken hearted and grieving the loss of the little boy our family cherished. The weight of his death crushed our family's collective spirit and I knew that while it was too late to give Bug that sibling we had planned, it wasn't too late to teach my children about their heart's ability to expand with love. It wasn't too late to teach my children that being part of a family doesn't mean sharing DNA.

The reasons my husband and I pursued this adoption are varied and vast, simple and complicated, all woven with the complexity of a spider's web. The thread of that web, however, no matter the intricacies or barriers, was love.

Instinctively I knew the only way too fix our family's cracked hearts was to embrace life and love once more through adoption.

My children needed to know life isn't about mourning the death of a loved one but celebrating life with love.

My instincts were bang on, and I'm glad I listened to that whispering voice that spoke to me through the years. "Adopt, adopt, adopt."

Suddenly our family, while forever fractured, is healing. Healing in a way time and space simply can't do. There was only one cure for our bleeding souls and that cure was love.

Jumby is our medicine. Jumby, in his twisted broken body, has offered us what no amount of time or prayer or tears ever could. He gave us back hope. He brought our family back to life and with him he carries the sweet reminders of the boy we lost and still love so. He reminds us that while Bug is gone his love is ever present, a gift that carries on through death and space and ultimately time.

Jumby, it seems, is his big brother's gift to us. And we are forever grateful for both little boys for the insight and clarity and most of all, love they have bestowed upon us, once again reminding all of us there is more to life than the mundane, the pain and the sorrow.

There is love and joy and light. All bound together in the spider web of life we've wrapped ourselves in.

But there has been a dark side to this adoption, this inclusion of an unknown person to our tightly knit clan. There has been fear and hand-wringing and doubt all clinging to the edges of the light Jumby has shone upon us.

Adopting a child who already had five years of life lived without you is a scary task. He isn't an impressionable newborn that a parent can mold and discover the child's personality as parent and infant grow together and bond as a family.

Jumby is five. His personality is largely formed already sayeth the child development experts. His personality bears no stamp of ours on it. It is entirely and uniquely his own.He has likes and dislikes, tastes and desires that we know nothing of.

Jumby came with five years under his belt, five years of memories and pain and joy that I will never truly know or understand. His life before becoming the newest little Redneck is merely words on reams of paper passed to us by social workers. The scars of his past have nothing to do with our family, our mistakes.

This missing chunk of time has tripped all of us up. It has been an adventure to learn the little boy thrust so suddenly into our lives and my heart breaks when I think of how overwhelmed he must sometimes feel to be part of a life he has yet to recognize.

Through trial and error we are slowly putting together the pieces of Jumby's puzzle, locked silently within himself, able to offer no clues himself other than tears or smiles.

Fric and Frac, at first worried that Jumby wouldn't love them. They pondered and fretted out loud that they wouldn't be able to love this new brown haired boy, who looks so different than their own reflections. They wondered if they would be able to see him for who he is and not see their beloved angel brother in his stead.

It took them a simple heart beat to accept one another and embrace each other as siblings. The three of them quickly bonded in a way only children can, united with the common goal to drive their parents as crazy as possible. Their worrying turned out to be for nothing and now when I ask them, "Does he feel like your brother? Do you love him yet?" they merely roll their eyes at me and say of course.

Of course. It is so simple to them. What is not to love? Jumby is a likeable kid, easy going and charming. He adores them and they in turn adore him. Like I knew they would. A mother's instincts are never wrong.

But what my children don't recognize is that every time I ask them if they love their brother, if he feels like part of the family, I am questioning aloud my own feelings.

Do I love Jumby? Does he feel like my son? Do I love him with the same fierceness I love his siblings?

With every kiss I slobber onto the soft spot of his neck, with every hug I wrap around him, I ask myself is this the one? The moment when I realize I don't just adore this child but love him with such absoluteness that my heart would shatter if he were to disappear?

While my intellect tells me Jumby is my son, I keep waiting for my heart to catch up and discover that Jumby has wormed his way into the maternal fibers of my being.

So I wait, I wonder, I worry and I keep on keeping on. I tell myself it will come with time, and it is enough that Jumby is my son through red tape and legalities, with time he will be my son by love.

But much like standing at a stove waiting for a kettle to come to boil, I know that the steam will never rise and blow the whistle while I watch. So I push my insecurities and doubts aside and tell myself to be content to know that he is mine. He is happy. I am happy. Everything will fall into place the way it should.

But every morning I kiss this boy we adopted, this boy the law has given us and wonder if today is the day Jumby becomes my forever son in my heart.

Then the balloon man came.

He was a clown in a funny costume, with two different coloured socks and shoes that squeaked whenever he moved. His hat was ludicrous and his beard was painted bright green. In his hands he twisted balloons into magical creatures, thrilling the imaginations of young and old alike.

I stood in line with my kids, Fric and Frac beside me and Jumby in his wheelchair, and watched this man weave his animal creatures out of air and latex and marveled at how I missed my calling in life.

My fingers were buried deep in Jumby's hair and Fric and Frac were joking around. I don't remember what Frac said but suddenly I grabbed my blonde little demons and one by one I held them down and licked their cheek from ear to jaw bone as Jumby giggled beside us. Standing up, I ruffled Jumby's hair and planted a kiss on his cheek while his siblings groaned how gross I was and wiped my spit off their faces.

The balloon man was watching us and laughed at our antics and soon enough it was our turn and I pushed Jumby to the front of the line with Fric and Frac beside me.

The balloon man with his blue glasses and red hair joked with my white haired children and asked what type of balloon they would each like and then settled to his task at hand.

Then it was Jumby's turn and the balloon man bent down to Jumby's level and said hello and shook Jumby's tightly balled fist.

"Would you like me to wait for his mother to get here so she doesn't miss out?" he kindly asked as he stood up and looked at me.

I wasn't annoyed by the man mistaking Jumby for another's child. It wasn't the first time someone didn't recognize him as my son, and with our colouring and different heritage it likely won't be the last.

But I was startled. I was startled by the clarity of the moment that settled before me.

I was startled to hear myself protectively snarl, "I am his mother."

I was startled to realize the mother lioness had at long last made her appearance and was ready to roar to life and claim this child as her own.

I was startled to hear how very true those words, "I am his mother," sprung from my lips and danced in my ears.

Jumby is no longer my son by law. Jumby is now my son through love. He is mine and I am his. My love for him is as fierce and proud as it is for my other children and he has burrowed himself deep into the fibers of my heart and entwined himself through out the very soul of my being.

The kettle finally came to a boil and the whistle is blowing. It only took a funny looking balloon man to make me hear the magical notes of my love for my son.

My son.

Jumby is my son.

We took our balloon twisted into a ridiculous looking mouse and I thanked the balloon man underneath the oak tree as I wheeled Jumby away. He will never know that he gave us more than a carnival balloon that afternoon.

He unlocked the love hiding in my heart and set it free upon the world for all to see.

I love you Jumby. Forever.