Michigan’s fall colors dressed each side of the highway as we trekked across the state once more. I thought of my son in the row behind me and how we had made this same trip to the family reunion one year earlier. It had been his first time; the shyness pulling his hood down to conceal his face. I reflected on so many firsts we had witnessed over the past five years: first Christmases, first birthdays, first Easters. We had the joys of seeing them for so many children. But this year, we felt the unfathomable power of something we had never experienced before: seconds.
As foster parents waiting for our forever family, we have been privileged to more numerous firsts than most families enjoy. Yet, so often, the celebrations end there. The happiest Easter is followed by the loneliest. Pages in a scrapbook unfold to reveal the birthday hat your squealing one-year-old wore twelve months ago. It hurts. So all the more of a blessing it has been this year to witness our children’s second birthdays, second Easters, second summer vacations, and soon, their second Christmases with us. It makes us start to believe there will be thirds, fourths, fiftieths, and more.
It feels a morbid thought, but I sometimes wonder who will be at my deathbed. Who might hold my hand to help me across. I pray my children will surround me, even those not with us yet. Seeing them would provide the ultimate confirmation that we made it together. That we stayed a family despite all odds.
Our little drive to the reunion and back was nothing extraordinary. Enjoyable and wonderful as always to come back together and share the joys and sorrows since our last meeting. But, coming home, I was filled with hope that the children in my car could be the ones to carry on this sacred gathering long after the rest of us are gone.
The reunion has passed, the apple crisp well-enjoyed, and we wait to see each other again next October. For now, we turn attention to our children’s second Halloween, the pride rising in us from how wonderful they will look in their second costumes. There is no single word to express all that is inside, but three come close: Thank you, God.