After having traveled well over 24 hours to get to the convent, we were exhausted, so sleep came easily in spite of the fact that we were excited about meeting our kids the next day. We needed a basic supply of water, but we managed to get one at the snack area for brushing our teeth for the night and morning.
Our interpreter said that the kids would be brought to St. Anne’s convent the next day, but never said what time. Knowing that the families just prior to us received their kids late in the afternoon, we knew we could spend the morning organizing, planning, and finding someone to shoot video of us meeting our kids. Our interpreter gave us a phone to share with the other couple, and told us she would update us in the morning. But of course, that was on “Africa time,” which we knew meant that we likely wouldn’t hear until the afternoon.
Breakfast was at 7:15 a.m., and we decided to go with our new best friends to the market a block away. The gate of the convent faces the gate of the U.S. Embassy, so we felt pretty confident in the one block walk. We put on our brave faces, and headed past the local vendors to the market, which was like a department store and grocery store combined.
We were browsing the Pringles and Oreos and water, when the phone rang.
The children were at St. Anne’s. In the lobby. Before 9:00 a.m.
WHAT THE WHAT?
We were woefully unprepared. We had no cameras. No video camera or person to record! Our friends called back to St. Anne’s and asked that our children be taken to the snack bar so that we could grab our cameras to capture our gotcha moment.
We bought the water that was in our carts, and headed back down the street to St. Anne’s. As we walked up the front steps, we all realized that our children were just behind the lobby door waiting for us.
No cameras, no video cameras. But it was all okay.
The moment was ours to share with just our kids. Rose was handed to me, and she immediately said, “Hi, mommy” and threw her arms around my neck. Ken went to Emmanuel who was behind the door, and shared a special moment. Then Ken was whisked away by our attorney to take care of paperwork to apply to leave the country with the kids.
Rose was in a tattered organza-like white dress with pink trim, and a white headband with a pink bow. She smiled so easily, chattered endlessly, and giggled contagiously. Emmanuel was more reserved. He had on red shorts and a shirt with a Jamaican flag on it. His smile was slower in coming, but real. Rose was a bit bigger than I thought, and Emmanuel a bit smaller than I had anticipated. They were both super heavy!
We decided to go over and look at the fish in the aquarium in the corner, and just chat. I sat down and held each on one knee and sang to them and told them in their own language that I loved them. I had a few items in my travel purse — a brush with a mirror and a book light. Not exactly what I wanted to present to them, but really, it didn’t matter. We had our own special moment.
The rest of the day was spent playing, eating, laughing and enjoying being a family together. We spent a couple of hours playing on the front lawn of St. Anne’s where the grass was thick and lush. Bubbles, soccer, frisbee, pictures, and more. The children, whose pictures we had been memorizing for months, were finally REAL. We had suspected that Rose was a bit of a diva. We were right. We had suspected that Emmanuel was more shy and reserved. We were right. But the fragments of personality that we had pieced together through pictures were fully blossoming before our eyes.
It was a great gotcha day.
And as it turns out, we really needed that great day to prepare us for the next.