The very first day we met our then 4 and 1/2 year old son, Mikias, he came back to our Addis Abba hotel with us. Yes, we were his parents but we were also perfect strangers. We didn't share a language, he had seen very few white people and he had never been anywhere as fancy as our hotel. We were nervous and he was overwhelmed. We had brought a duffle bag full of clothes with us for him, in varying sizes, unsure exactly how big he would be. We needed to take the clothes off that he was wearing, so we could return them to the orphanage. We opened the bag of clothes and he was mesmerized. He chose a pair of jeans and a blue fleece hoodie. When it came time for bed, I took off his jeans, preparing to put him in the the new pj's we brought for him. As soon as I got his jeans off, he was really upset and the new pajamas didn't sway him. He didn't want any part of them and he refused to take off the hoodie. Somehow in all of the confusion, his underpants came off but he just wanted to stay the way he was, in the hoodie and nothing else. He wanted to sleep in the bed with me, Kurt took the couch to give him plenty of space. He curled into me and quickly fell asleep. I was wide awake with amazement, staring at this beautiful little boy who was now our son.
I finally fell asleep around 2:00 am and was quickly awakened by the sound of singing, in Amharic. I opened my eyes to see Mikias's naked bottom, he was standing on our bed. Singing. Loudly. In a voice that sounded close to tears. Since I don't speak Amharic, I couldn't understand a word that he was singing and then I noticed one word that he repeated throughout the song.....it sounded like E T Opia. I wasn't sure at first, then I realized through my sleepy haze that it was 'Ethiopia' and he was singing some kind of national song. He must have woken up with The Freak and who wouldn't? Poor kid, how scared he must have been that first night. And how resourceful too, to comfort himself with a patriotic song.
Now, when we put the boys to bed, we play a CD for them to fall asleep to. I usually choose 'African Lullabies'. When Kurt puts them to bed he favors 'Freedom Songs', patriotic songs accompanied by a military marching band. Personally, I have nothing against his CD, other than I don't think it is very soothing. A couple of night ago after Kurt's CD ended, I heard the boys talking (this never happens after African Lullabies because they are sleeping). I went to the door to listen and I heard Jemberu singing 'God Bless America' in his beautiful clear voice. When he finished, he said to his brother, "Sing your favorite, Miki." Then, Mikias in his raspy, tired, beautiful voice sang every word to 'Grand Old Flag' before falling asleep.
My mind went back to our first scary night together and I was overwhelmed with emotion. I couldn't help it, I watered.
Happy Memorial Day.