Today was Zuki’s first day with us. She went straight to the doll house. Her eyes were so wide, and she chirped.
“Think she’s hungry?” Meadow asked, when she started gnawing on Flower Mommy Doll.
She was humming. “I think she’s happy!” I said.
It’s hard to believe this day is here! This whirlwind happened after Meadow’s pen pal Dove wrote to her. I knew something was up when I saw Meadow reading her pen pal’s letter. Meadow gets this look like she wants to save the world, and that’s when I know: buckle-up for change!
“What is it?” I asked. I could tell something big was going to happen.
“Oh, Mizuki. It’s terrible. A refugee ship crashed and there were little kids on board.”
“And you want to help?” I asked. I needn’t have asked. I already knew the answer.
“Of course!” Meadow answered, just like I knew she would.
Next came a string of email messages, phone calls, and texts, and lots of long conversations about how best to help: Financial support? Meadow’s got loads of money. Volunteering with the agency? We both have a little extra time in our busy schedules. Holding workshops for care-givers? We’ve got expertise. Providing trauma-therapy training for the social workers? Meadow is a gifted therapist. Eventually, it came out that what was really needed were homes for the survivors, most of whom were under three years old.
Many had already been placed with qualified, carefully selected individuals, and the toddlers were receiving care. Already, they were successfully integrating into their families and the local communities.
But alongside these success stories remained a few dozen children who had been labeled “difficult to place.”
Some had behavioral issues; some had mobility challenges; some seemed to have nonstandard developmental patterns.
When Mr. Noriega learned that I was pursuing an advanced degree in childhood education and Meadow, a doctoral in trauma therapy, and that Meadow had already adopted a child from a refugee camp who was thriving in every way, he asked if we’d consider taking one of these “Category D” children.
I think this was what Meadow had hoped for all along. She beamed.
“We can’t really refuse, can we?” she asked.
Of course we couldn’t.
Meadow’s family has been supportive.
“Another grandniece?” said her uncle Jasper. “The clan expands!”
Jena has been an angel.
“How do you feel about becoming a big sister?” Jasper asked her.
“I’ve been practicing,” Jena said. “I’ve been bossing the kids at school all year!”
But Jena has natural empathy. I think she must have picked up on Zuki needing a little time to settle into her new home.
She didn’t rush towards her or try to smother her. She simply smiled in her quiet, calm way and let Zuki be in charge of her own physical space.
The approach is working! Zuki circled, studying her big sister and clicking her tongue. She’s a very curious child.
Confession time: I’m pretending that Zuki is Youssef and my love child. Shhh! Don’t tell!
But I think she looks like us combined. She’s got Youssef’s curly hair and broad nose. My blonde coloration and pale skin. She could be our baby!
When we learned her first name was Zuki, Meadow and I decided she’d take my last name: we filled out her paperwork entering her name as Zuki Suzuki.
And we entered my name, Mizuki Suzuki, as the primary care-giver.
And now, I have a baby daughter, who just so happens to look like the perfect combination of me and my squeeze, my own little Zuki-burger with curly fry pigtails!