We worried a bit over taking Miss I to an Ethiopian restaurant, for a couple of reasons.
First, we were concerned about her response to my Ethiopian embroidered shirt awhile ago. Would she panic when surrounded by familiar sights and smells?
Then there was the possible perception by Ethiopian Americans that this was the limit of how we would share her culture and history with her.
When we were reading through our first application many moons ago, when we thought we would find our daughter in China, when one or the other of us jokingly replied to the question of how we would celebrate her Chinese heritage that we'd have takeout once a week, the joke was not on the question, but on us and our hubris in even thinking about a transracial, transnational adoption.
There was no getting around, it seems to me, the fact that in the abstract we're the fifth best thing, and no one we meet at a restaurant could know us any more intimately. If our first thought had been our insufficiency to the task, surely it would be others', and well it should be. And then there is the fact that families like mine are a painful reminder to a very proud culture of Ethiopia's present inability to care for its own children.
But we really wanted her to have really good injera, which she had loved not so long ago (has it really only been four months? Was dh ever really in Ethiopia?). So we went to the Queen of Sheba, skipping nearby Meskerem, which is considered more crowded (like Addis) and less flavorful.
When we first arrived, Miss I was very shy before the beautiful waitress who seated us, and she hid her head in my shoulder. Dh was enthusiastic, eager for me to try everything including the honeyed wine (phenomenal). Ds, ordinarily a very wary diner, looked forward to his injera. Miss I. still hid. As soon as I tasted and enjoyed things, Miss I became more confident, and wanted to share her growing enjoyment with familiar flavors, and gestured excitedly to textiles hanging on the wall. Beeful. Prebby. Beeful, Momma, see, see?
Her enthusiasm caught the attention of the party behind us, and began one of the most affirming conversations we've had yet. Mr. E. raved about my beautiful daughter, then gestured to my son. "Is he your own?" I wasn't certain I had heard him over the small crowd or through his accent, and I indicated that. He tried again, twice: "Is he your natural son? . . . Your son as well?" "Yes," I replied. "He is my son as well." He smiled broadly. "You know, I am Ethiopian and I am adopted as well, and what you have done is a blessing."
Mr. E shared that he hails from Addis, that he was not familiar with Miss I's village to the south, that he thanked God for the gift we were to Miss I, and that he was even more thankful because we (protested and) considered her the gift to our family. Then he asked what ds thought of his new sister. "He's so thrilled with her he's already talking about his little brother," I said. This was met with great enthusiasm and many congratulations: "but I only meant he was talking about one. He isn't having one." And they discussed among themselves when we should return to Ethiopia for a son, how much time to allow our own Queen of Sheba to remain our little princess. (They thought not too long).
When we were ready to leave, Miss I kissed our waitress on the cheeks and waved fondly to our new friends.
Dh had told me that Ethiopians were the most beautiful and most gracious people he had ever met, and while this seems like a sweeping generalization, it also appears to be true.
If you're ever on tenth, have the dabo, vegetarian sampler, and honeyed wine (but make sure your companion orders the Ethiopian beer to taste).