Post-placement services has just requested a letter from us for translation and delivery to Miss I's family in Ethiopia. It can only be one page. It may be a first contact, it may be our only contact. Too much to say!!! Too much to ask!!! I'm sending a coversheet as well for the social worker to consider asking some more sensitive questions that would be awkward but could mean the world to our daughter someday (who was there when she was born, who held her, and some other things that are too personal to share here). But in the space I've been granted, I've been torn between sharing our daughter with them, and begging them to share bits of themselves with her. It is alienating to Ethiopians to ask very direct questions that don't allow for flexible answers. So there's that. But there's also this: How to know now what she is going to want to know someday?! One letter can't fill in the empty spaces for her -- but perhaps it could for them. Which is why, ultimately, I share her with them in the hopes that they'll share freely in response.
Here's the draft of one of the two letters:
We are the American family fortunate to call your ---- our daughter. More than one year ago, in March by our calendar, your family had to part with your precious child. Almost one year ago (June 12, 2006), DH traveled to Addis Ababa to bring ---- home to us, and she became our precious child as well.
We think of you always, and we have many questions for you about yourselves and about her life with you. We believe that it is important for her to have information and understanding and, if possible, comnunication with her family in Ethiopia as she grows. We also want to share about our life with her with you:
Miss I. is a strikingly beautiful girl, with big brown eyes, long eyelashes and darling dimples, as you can see from the pictures. We wonder whether she looks like her mother, or her father, perhaps her grandmother or aunts, and we think she’ll wonder too. At 2.5 years old, she weighs -- pounds and is tall for her age. So far she is very healthy.
She is a happy little girl, who loves her American brother Little Bun(6) very much. She is full of life and personality and good humor, with a bright sparkle in her eyes. She is also very smart: her doctor declares her to be one of the brightest little girls he knows, and we’re sure that this is true. She learns new words every day, and is learning to count and recite the English alphabet already. She sings often, either to us or to herself, able to repeat perfectly bits of music she’s only heard once. We wonder if someone else in her family has such musical talent.
She knows she was born in ---- in Ethiopia (though she pronounces it either Easy Opia or Easter-Opia, after her favorite holiday), and she knows that in Ethiopia she was much loved, and is still much loved by her family there. She likes to look at pictures of herself in Addis Ababa, and to look at pictures of the land near H---- given to us by a friend. However, we would like to give her more. We understand that you were taking very good care of her but that ----. Do you have memories or thoughts about your time with her that you can share with her?
We'd also like her to have pictures of you. We’d like her to know if you are well. We'd like her to know how you spend your days, how S. and A. spend theirs. We would like to be able to answer her questions, or to help her find answers to questions she may have someday. We hope to meet you on a return trip.
Most of all we want to reassure you: Your ---- is one of our greatest joys and we are thankful for having her in our lives.